At the beginning of February, I had a notice that I have an interview with Centrelink on the 19 th.
Let me tell you the little rule in Australia. No matter how sick you are or how disabled you are, you do not receive any government support if you fail to attend the interview in person.
I guess we have human rights as a disabled people to request things when things don’t suites us. But disabled and sick people need able people and money to help us protect the rights. Sadly, we don’t have the resource.
Last time I was told to attend Job Capacity Assessment interview, I asked if someone could come to my place as I was so sick and could not leave bed. Their answer was “No”. If I didn’t go, I simply wouldn’t get the disability support pension (DSP). I felt it was very cruel as the reason why I need DSP was because I was so disabled by this illness and could not leave my bed. Luckily, I had a care from Blue Care Labrador in time and they provided me with a person to take me to the interview place and accompanied with the interview. It was their first support project.
This time I have no body to help me. As you know, I became unwell and crashed in public places and humiliated by the experience few times already. So it is natural that I am very nervous and want to prepare for the outing as much as I could.
I made a peace with their regulation and am prepared to do my best to cooperate their request. I’m not a complaining person in nature. It is best to do my best and get over with each task if I could.
I really don’t know the purpose of the interview as the review of the pension would be sometime in July. The letter said I should ring if I cannot attend the appointment to rearrange the time. I didn’t want to rearrange the time as I am always unwell. So I just have to be there as they requested and get over with it. It just takes lots of efforts and lots of recovery time.
I needed to ring them for other reasons, though. I couldn’t understand some of abbreviations they used on the letter, so that I had no idea about some of the documents they want me to bring. I also don’t know where the Centrelink is.
Now the appointment is tomorrow (now it is after midnight, so it is today), I needed to ring them to find the details about the appointment. I am also nervous about talking to them on the phone as I had been treated badly over the phone. The stress made my brain crash and couldn’t keep the conversation with her anymore.
After I left woman’s shelter in December 2006, telephone operators have been extremely nice to me. So I just hoped that their telephone attitude have generally improved now. After all, I may be worrying about things for nothing. My cognitive function is better than two years ago. Things may go differently.
When I get to the telephone operator, I first asked the purpose of the interview. He was nice at the beginning and tried to find the purpose of the appointment for me. It seemed he just couldn’t find it anywhere in his data base. After a while, he just told me that it was a routine interview to collect all my information since I had updated my accommodation information.
It didn’t make sense to me as they never requested interview when I updated my accommodation information, and they already have a copy of my new lease with increased rent amount on it. Ironic part is that it doesn’t give me any extra rent allowance as my rent had already much more than their maximum threshold. (And ironically, this is the cheapest place I could have.) I didn’t want the rent to go up, yet I have to be hassled by Centrelink because of that?
“But you guys already have ALL of my information and documents. I just don’t understand why.” I asked.
This comment made him upset immediately. So I explained the reason why I wanted to know the purpose was because I am very sick and it is really really hard for me to go out. As long as I know, this interview is not relating to their procedure. And naturally, I wish to avoid going to their office if it is not necessary. But I am prepared to be there if it is their procedure and I have no choice but be there.
I am not the kind of person who complains for no reason and making other people’s job difficult. However, at this point, it seems there is no reasonable purpose for me to put efforts to be at the interview. For a person as sick as I am, this is a reasonable question to ask, wouldn’t it?
He put the line on hold for a while to speak to one of officers, but it turned out none of them responded. His annoyed voice told me that I left it to too late. So I explained again that I am very sick and making a phone call is a big effort and I couldn’t do it until now.
Then he told me that he will have someone call me tomorrow morning to rearrange the appointment. I didn’t want to rearrange the appointment; I just wanted to get important information to be there. His suggestion made me very uncomfortable. As I don’t trust their communication skill as I had really bad experience with their incompetency before. This gives a big possibility that nobody will phone me to discuss anything and my pension will be stopped because I didn’t follow their procedure. And there is another possibility that they would give me different story if I phone them tomorrow.
So I moved on and asked him to give me other information on the letter, so that I can still present myself to the interview if nobody would ring me.
At this point, he was really annoyed and wanted to get rid of me. He didn’t listen to my question but was speaking on the phone like a machine gun that the purpose of the interview was to collect information and there was no officer available for me to speak so he put a note to my file for someone to ring me tomorrow. The way he talked made me feel as if I was a five-year-old stubborn child who refuses to understand adult rules.
From my own experience, I just cannot trust their internal communication skill so I had to cover my back. If I let things go wrong way, I will need to waste much more energy that I don’t have to correct the problem. If you speak to anybody who had dealt with Centrelink, they will all agree with me.
I tried to stop him by begging repeatedly, “I don’t want to argue with you.”
When he finished, I explained to him that I was not trying to annoy him but I was just doing my best to be at the interview. I was hoping he would understand what I was trying. His tone of voice was making me really nervous.
I also needed to ask the documents they requested. On the letter, they use abbreviations and I had no idea what they mean. One of them was “Poi”. He said that was Proof of identity. Then I asked what “C/P” means. He almost lost. It must be the most ridiculous question he ever heard, but it is on the letter and I still didn’t understand. Whatever it is, I had to bring it with me. He didn’t know what I was talking about and his tone of voice was really irritated. First he told me, “That’s an interpreter.” And it blew my mind, “What?!” Why do I need an interpreter? I have never heard of that before. I was hoping he wouldn’t get angry and threat to hang up the phone. (As it happened to me before…)
Finally, he checked the letter on his computer screen and told me it means customer and partner. Then added if I don’t have a partner, I could ignore it.
Then I had to ask the direction to their office. I checked two different maps, and none of them had Stockyard Lane, Beenleigh, which is the address I should visit. If you don’t believe me, try google map and you will see that there is no Stockyard Lane on the map.
I asked two different people and they both gave me different directions.
I even checked Centrelink website, but they marked Centrelink in the middle of huge green field and it wasn’t helping at all. There was no entrance and different streets were pointing at the huge green field.
But all he told me was it IS on Stockyard Lane. So I had to explain him again that I could not find the address on any map. I also had to explain that I am new here and I cannot go out, so I don’t know the town well. He started giving me direction, but gave up without trying. According to him, there is no point giving me direction if I don’t know the town much.
The reason why I needed the exact direction is because I cannot walk much. I needed to know how to get to the disability parking spot so that I don’t need to crush in the public trying to walk unnecessarily longer distance. (As you know, it actually happened to me.) At the same time, I prefer to preserve my very limited energy from driving around busy streets getting frustrated. This would impair my cognitive function quickly.
He just told me to talk to someone tomorrow and they would interview me over the phone or rearrange the time. Hang on! Did he just mention that they DO interview over the phone? Did he understand that I AM trying my best to be at the interview?
He was very irritated. Any question I asked, he took it as challenge. And I just didn’t want to argue. Since I became very ill, I cannot argue anymore. Just sensing irritated or angry person itself makes me physically unwell or crash. I just wanted to get important information. And I certainly didn’t want to speak to someone being annoyed by me doing my best. So I decided not to ask anymore question. I thanked him and said good bye. If they don’t want to help me, how can I cooperate with them?
I’m afraid this phone call might have pushed me into unpleasant situation. They are so quick to judge but not willing to listen or understand. Please think. There is a reason why I am on DSP.
I just have to wait until tomorrow morning and see what happens. At the moment, I can only sleep between 5 am and 2 pm… Waiting for the phone call tomorrow morning means I will not have decent sleep.
I was very upset. I don’t feel I’m stupid anymore as it is clearly their incompetence to give me adequate information I needed to follow their procedure. I just wish they would stop taking me wrong way all the time. And I know whatever I do or how much I try, they would just keep treating me the same.
I should get toughen up and be cold hearted person and shouldn’t care about other people but myself. But it is not me. And it is not the person I want to be, either.
I am always grateful for DSP. I am prepared to do my best to cooperate and fill my obligation. It is very sad that I cannot avoid mean and insulting attitude from people whom they don’t know me at all. I’m trying to accept that insults are part of the DSP packet. But I still have decent pride and self-esteem in me that I believe I shouldn’t have to accept it.
I wish so much that I could just walk away from ME/CFS and get my life and career back. I would love to get my voice back that people actually listens. I would love to get all the lost ability back so that I just don’t have to put up with mean and cold people. I could make anything possible if I wanted.
Ranting has done. Sorry if you read this.