I Could Be Homeless Next Year Because Of The Budget

homeless

homeless

I could be homeless next year.

I don’t turn 30 until the end of 2015. This leaves me scared. I have pretty much always had contract work. I apply for permanent jobs, but in the end, I seem to get the contract ones. I don’t know what to say about the how or the why of that, but it has been my reality my entire working life.

I currently work 20 hours a week for a large organisation. Prior to this, I was in the same company for two years (as a casual employee).

Between my current and previous jobs (the space of about six weeks) I applied for Newstart. Why? I always put money away for a rainy day, but I had emergency expenses in January that wiped out my savings, and I didn’t have many weeks left at work to replace them by the end of my contract. Circumstances I couldn’t control.

I was eligible for one full payment and one part payment of Newstart before my work income reduced my payment to $0. I currently have a Health Care Card but no income from Centrelink, due to my job. In a few fortnight’s time, I won’t have even a Health Care Card.

Some things about me:

  • I have a degree from a “sandstone university”.
  • I have experience in a variety of jobs in a variety of industries. Big. Small. Private. Government. Entry jobs. Senior jobs.
  • I interview very well.
  • I have lovely referees who are patient with my job seeking efforts (in fact, when I was offered my current job, I was told that my references were “absolutely glowing”).
  • I am starting my own businesses. Partially because I have always wanted to, partially due to the fact I don’t see employment as secure; it never has been for me.
  • My current work place is supporting me in trying to find a more secure and/or full time position so I can stay, offering me all kinds of internal training, supporting my applications for other jobs and anything else I ask of them.

My point here is that I have a privileged background with a good education and lots of relevant work experiences. If I can struggle to find full time, secure work, then anyone can.

My 20 hour a week job only goes until the start of August. I am already looking for and applying for new jobs. I’m trying to find a second job right now to supplement my income. I’m applying for anything and everything.

Some of my recent examples:

  • I had an interview a few weeks ago to become an optical dispenser in a retail optometry company. I didn’t get the job despite a good interview, and I didn’t get feedback as to why.
  • I’m trying to find a pizza delivery job to see if I can earn some extra money that way. So far, no responses. I’m going to take a wild guess and say they prefer people under 21 who they can pay less.
  • Every single night I go through Seek, CareerOne, University Websites, Student job boards, Gumtree and any other place I can think of and apply for jobs. I cold call and cold email places to ask for work.
  • I’m writing this on my phone as I commute home from work. I have sore eyes from being in front of a computer all day; I started feeling like I was going to vomit. I had a bad headache/migraine coming on until I took something for it. Feeling that crappy, that fast, I just want to sleep now. Yet I found a good job that closes tonight, so when I get home, I will eat dinner and get back onto a computer to answer those selection criteria.

It’s not unheard of for me to send off applications for thirty jobs in a day. Some are relevant to my background. Many are not. I’m not being choosy.

You can never, ever, accuse me of not trying hard enough to get a job.

And yet, come July 2015, if I become unemployed, I face up to six months of zero support from Newstart if I haven’t managed to save money to cover my rent.

This is an unfair welfare system.

I don’t want to live on the dole. It is a pittance. It is a pittance that lets me pay my rent when I am desperate. It is a pittance I am grateful for. That I am happy to pay tax for so others like me won’t be homeless.

I am lucky that all I have usually needed is a “boost” of money for a month or so to scrape me by until I found a job. I know others are not so lucky.

I happily receive $0 from Centrelink right now because I work 20 hours a week. I earn much more than the dole working these hours. And I’m very happy with that.

I have spoken to many people about this in my life, and anecdotally, everyone is shocked at how bad Australia is for contract or casual work.

Is it luck? Am I a contract worker by bad luck? I don’t know. I kind of don’t care. Thinking about that would take away valuable job hunting time.

If the government really wants young people to not be welfare dependent, then why aren’t there incentives for providing secure jobs? Why has the casualisation of jobs been ignored?

What are they doing about the relative lack of jobs to applicants? At nearly every interview I’ve had this year, I have been told there were between 100-200 applications for the single vacancy. This is not the job seekers fault. In this environment, the odds are against nearly everyone.

From my perspective, I am doing everything I can to find a job. And all I see is the government not caring at all. I pay taxes; I have paid tax since I started working at 15.

The other factor: I am not single. My husband has been unwell & unable to work for four years. His story is long, complicated, and not mine to tell. I include it only to say that he is not classified as disabled and the reality of my life is that I must be able to pay all the bills myself so I can support both of us. I don’t have a backup, I am the income earner. The only income earner.

How is this system fair? If I can be out of work with my education, background and extensive job seeking habits, why should I be penalised?

I read that it’s only if you are classified as stream one or two that you will be subject to the (up to) six month wait to receive Newstart. So; for being “easily” employable, I get penalised!

You don’t want to create more poor people in the world. I think that this system will do so. How am I to pay for a train fare to get to a job interview if I have an income of zero? How does a person with zero income spend money and contribute to the economy by buying things?

Yes, it is “up to” six months of no payment. This depends on how long you worked before becoming unemployed. I have yet to find out for certain how this will be applied, and how it will be applied to contract work. There are breaks in my work sometimes, what will count as “working” before applying?

If they really want to tighten the system to make sure people are using their savings before claiming money from the government, why not just lower the amount you’re allowed to have in savings to be eligible to claim? That would “make” people be more “responsible” for themselves without unnecessarily harming those who are genuinely in need.

I am aware there are people much worse off than me. I am not writing this for a “who is worse” competition.

I am writing this because I feel invisible. Helpless. I do everything I can to get an income to the best of my ability, but if bad luck and/or circumstance happens to me, as it did at the start of this year, and I’m out of work with no savings, then I am not eligible for assistance. Just because of my age.

This is an unfair welfare system.

Have you ever struggled to find full-time work? How will the budget effect you?

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  • Jen

    Well written and very informative. I sincerely hope this doesn’t go through

    • 26 Years & Counting

      Me too!

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  • Ozgirl

    I have struggled for years to find a permanent job. I also have tirelessly patient references.

    Last September I didn’t work at all and all of October I only worked part time on a minimal wage. I did Okay for a few months but then everything built up on top of me and in Feb i was living on $50 a week (after expenses). So I basically didn’t leave the house for all of Feb!

    • 26 Years & Counting

      I know the feeling, you can usually scrape by for a while but as soon as you have a big bill or some other expense, it all comes crashing down a bit!

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  • Leona Devaz

    Vanessa, I’m impressed by your bravery at telling such a personal story. I too can empathise with the very valid points you addressed. As someone that has elected to finish their degree (in their late 30’s!), my decision to quit full-time work and set up as a freelancer has been challenging financially too.

    I constantly hear about how other ‘progressive’ countries have efficient structures in place to support a knowledge-based economy and I truly hope that Australia sees this as a critical need. Just wanted to reach out and touch base, as I know the difficulties and your post is well-thought out and timely.

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  • http://www.sarahsheartwrites.com Sarah | Sarah’s Heart Writes

    I hopped over from my blog where you left a comment Vanessa. This is a very brave post, and you are right, it is still relevant, even more so I think.