Thursday, 6 February 2020

Centrelink is Watching

There's a lot of things I hate about living with lupus.

One of those things is relying on a Disability Pension from Centrelink.

I don't like the feeling of being dependent. I also miss being able to pay taxes.  That probably sounds weird if you're one of those people who would do anything to avoid or minimise tax, but I really love education, healthcare, police, courts, all those amazing things taxes pay for.  As well as feeling dependent, I'm upset that I'm not paying my way.

I can't go back to work, because I never know when I'm going to be sick, and no employer wants an employee who needs a fortnight to recover from a day's work.

So, I thought I would try to do things in a small way, to work towards reducing my dependence.  I write my books, but those haven't yet made a profit.  I had a couple of attempts to monetise my blogs, but gave that up as pointless.

Half way through last year I started putting aside $50 a fortnight to buy shares.  A month or so ago, I bought my first $600 worth of shares. That's not high finance, but over time, I hope it will make a difference.

Doing the right thing, I added the shares to my list of assets with Centrelink.

A week later, I received a letter from Centrelink, demanding statements for my bank accounts, and asking, in these exact words: "Where did the money for all these shares come from?"

Yes, that princely sum of $600 is enough to make Centrelink suspicious I was doing something dodgy.  I had to detail every cent I owned, and explain my budget and how I managed to save that massive amount of $600.

I haven't heard from Centrelink again since then, and my pension wasn't stopped, so I guess they have accepted my explanation.

But here's the thing: if I'd spent $50 per fortnight on alcohol or gambling, Centrelink would neither have known or cared.  Instead, I spent it on trying to be financially responsible.  That doesn't fit the stereotype of someone on a Centrelink benefit, so it was suspicious.

The government's been experimenting with a cash-free welfare card, with the idea that people on welfare have to have everything they do controlled by someone who knows better.  Support for that comes from the stereotype that people on low incomes can't manage money.

In real life, people on low incomes have to know more about managing money than people on high incomes.  We learn because we have to make every dollar stretch to its maximum; it's the only way to survive.

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