Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What to do when your Welfare payment is suspended....

 
I have an adult son with a disability. He accesses a payment through the national welfare system here, as he is perfectly entitled to do. He has Cerebral Palsy, and is totally physically dependent in every possible way. He literally cannot function without the intervention of another human being. Therefore, his prospects of securing paid work, in a world where able bodied folk struggle to do so, are very slim indeed.
 
Welfare payments for people with a disability in my country, are currently being overhauled. I guess that has to happen from time to time. Some conditions change, sometimes for the better, and I suppose some folk who may have met the criteria for entitlement, may no longer do so. I get that.
 
Cerebral Palsy however, is not a condition that will change. My son is not miraculously going to wake up one morning and be able to sit, stand, walk and fend for himself. Cerebral Palsy is, sadly, permanent and unchanging.
 
So I'd like to know how someone, in their infinite wisdom, decided that he had not responded to the 'please have a doctor confirm your disability' letter in a timely enough fashion, and suspended his payment? He in fact, had already responded, with a doctors letter (and didn't she want to know why he was even being asked to respond at all!!), and within the appropriate time frame.
 
Now I know that if you are reading this, perhaps you find yourself in a similar situation. I do not know where you live, but I do know, from long hard experience, that there is a way of going about having these sorts of issues rectified, and doing it quickly.
 
First of all, let me say, that of course all Welfare payments should be monitored. Yes we need to report, meet criteria, and be accountable. No argument there whatsoever. But it seems that the system is sadly lacking in both common sense and compassion, more often than is reasonable. If you're in the habit of failing to respond to 'please explain' type correspondences, then fair enough. You're bound to eventually attract the wrong sort of attention. Sorry, but there it is. But if you're only asked once in several years, and you are genuinely, due to life circumstances beyond your control, eligible for a Government Payment, then some leniency should prevail.
 
Secondly, as much as it's tempting, there is no point becoming irate with the person on the receiving end of your phone call or visit to the local authority office, as they do not make the decisions, nor can they change decisions made. They do not have that power. They are only doing their job, within the confines of their job description.
 
In my experience, the only way, the quickest way, to have these situations resolved quickly and with the minimum amount of fuss is this....
 
Contact your local sitting Member of Parliament.
 
Now depending upon where you live, that persons title may vary. Here in Australia, we all have a local Federal Member of Parliament. That person is your voice. They are your elected representative. They are there to help YOU. Yes, you.
 
I have been the parent of someone with a disability for nearly 26 years, and I can tell you, that we would not be where we are, without the support of several sitting MPs. I have always found them to be fair, reasonable, compassionate and swift to act. BUT, and it's a big 'but', you must be able to show that you are doing the right thing. If you have failed to report as requested, or not fulfilled the conditions attached to your payment, then you are unlikely to get a sympathetic hearing. So make sure you've done that first and foremost.
 
However if, like my son, you've done everything right, and your payments have still been suspended, then it's time for a friendly chat with your local MP.
 
Your first step is to determine who that is. If you don't already know, just do an online search of your Electorate, and the persons name should pop up fairly quickly.
 
Before you call them to air your grievance, make some notes. Have the correspondence from the Welfare office and any reference numbers in front of you, as well as dates that you have returned forms, visited the Welfare office, including dates and times, and if possible, the names of any person or persons you've spoken with. In fact, it's good policy to keep these details on an ongoing basis, either in a file or in your hand held device. Keeping a folder at home with any and all correspondence from your Welfare office, is actually a really good idea for this reason alone, as it can confirm your position in the scheme of things. Otherwise, it really is a case of your word against theirs.
 
When you ring the office, you are unlikely to speak directly with your MP. A Secretary or Personal Assistant, will answer the phone, and they will be more likely to assist you quickly, if you can state your problem clearly and concisely, without becoming emotional or abusive.
 
Here's what I said...
 
"Hello. My name is....., and I am ringing on behalf of my disabled son...., who has Cerebral Palsy. We've just received a letter saying his payment has been suspended because he did not respond by the cut off date, for the reviews currently under way. We're confused because he has already responded, way before that date. I've tried to ring Centrelink, but only reached the recorded message saying they were experiencing a high volume of calls. Can you help us?"
 
Five sentences. No hysteria. No wailing, as much as the situation warranted wailing. Just a brief outline of the problem at hand, and a calm request for help.
 
The secretary took some details, including Customer Reference Number, name and address, and dates my son had forwarded his response to the request for confirmation of his disability. She assured me that we were not the only ones experiencing this difficulty, and that she herself would contact the Welfare office and have the payment restored.
 
Within just 45 minutes, I had a call from the Regional Manager of the Welfare office, confirming that the payment had been reinstated. She noted that my sons correspondence had been received and recorded, the day before the letter advising his payment was suspended had been sent, and admitted that she could not offer any explanation for this course of action. She apologised and reassured me that his next payment would appear in his account as usual.
 
Problem solved.
 
Not only that, but his local MP, now has an armful of ammunition with which to ensure that this does not happen again. That's the thing. These ARE the people who can enact change. Not the ones in the local Welfare office. You go to the source, to the person who truly can be your voice. If more of us contacted our local MPs when these situations arise, then perhaps there would be a groundswell of support for positive change to our Welfare system.
 
That's it. No big secret. Try it, and let me know how you go.
 
Good luck!
 
 

24 comments:

  1. Mimi I am so glad that your son's payment has been reinstated. I always believe that you initially try to fix the problem yourself and if you are unable to then you go higher. I told my brother how to fix his problem but he wouldn't listen to me.

    Lynette
    XXXXX

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    1. Yes, it was done in double quick time due to the circumstances Lynette. Much to our relief. But it does help to know how to tackle these things for sure. Yes it's frustrating when you try to tell people how to help themselves and it's ignored. You can only do so much though. Mimi xxx

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  2. Thank you for writing this Mimi. I often advise people to contact their local MP regarding serious issues they are facing and people often look mystified at me as if they can't understand why this course of action might help.

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    1. You're right Sherri. It's about complaining to someone who can help for sure, but also it's about going to the person who can, over time, make things change so that you don't find yourself in the situation again. Go to the change-maker, I say! Mimi xxx

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  3. Good advice, as always, Mimi. Your son, and indeed all of your family, are lucky to have you ready and willing to stand up for them.
    Fiona xx

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    1. You are lovely, Fiona. Thankyou. Mimi xxx

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  4. Mimi, I only found out today about the reviews so am wondering if there is a letter waiting for us at home. I am already expecting trouble as we have walked this road for many years. It is good to remember that the squeaky wheel gets the oil :-)

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    1. Chel, it's only the Disability Support Payment that's under review. All other payments are fine for now. But yes, squeaky wheel usually gets the oil! Mimi xxx

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    2. Mimi, that is the one that will concern us. No letter has arrived as yet.

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  5. Wow-what a helpful post! I am in the US and you could have been writing about our system, because these kinds of problems happen a lot. Love how fair, balanced, and honest your post it, and I am sure you will help others.

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    1. Thankyou Denise. I think Welfare payments world wide are in for a crunch time. Of course, since you commented, you have a new President Elect, and that's going to engender some changes for sure, from what I've heard. It's going to be a rocky time ahead! I hope my post can continue to be helpful. Mimi xxx

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  6. Mimi, you are a fantastic advocate for your son. Thank you for sharing your level-headed advice. As a mom with a grown son with permanent disabilities, I also appreciate this post. In the US, we would likely contact our state representatives, but until I read your post, I never would have considered it. But of course, they are our public servants and are here to help us. Why didn't I think of that! I hope to never have to contact mine re: my son, but now I have another means of advocating for him should something drastic like losing his benefits occur. Soo glad to hear that your son's benefits were re-instated! Love, Teresa

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    1. Thankyou Teresa. It's a case of having walked the path all too often. I'm glad that you think my advice will help you. It's tough being the advocate sometimes, isn't it? I think it's time that all people made more 'use' of their local government representative. See, they don't know that there is a problem, if you don't tell them. We so often complain that things need to change, but we're not willing to stand up and be part of the change. It's so very important to stand up for our rights, not necessarily by demonstrating and taking to social media, but by being on first name terms with our local Members of government, and seeing them as the true representative of the community and our voice, as they are elected to be. Thankyou. I'm off my soapbox now. Love, Mimi xxx

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    2. Teresa, I have called my Congressman twice and was successful both times. Once for help with a incompetent postal carrier, who was subbing for our wonderful regular carrier on maternity leave. And again when my mom's bank took her entire social security check amount out and wouldn't tell her why. She was at the bank so long waiting that she wet herself. The n she had to pay a cab to go home without answers. $40 for the round trip. She called me crying because she couldn't pay her rent, utilities, or buy food. After the bank hung up on me and I put out the fire on top of my head, I called the congressman's office and begged help. Within a half hour my mom called back and said the bank manager called her, apologized, and put the entire sum back in. I wouldn't hesitate to call again for a serious problem.

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  7. I'm so glad things worked out, Mimi. Your advice is sound. Fussing at the person who answers the phone is unhelpful but having a well-documented case is vital.
    Blessings, Leigh

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    1. Thankyou Leigh. Yes, fussing at the poor person on the phone, doesn't always work well. It may alleviate some of your frustration, but isn't always the best line of attack. Being calm and organised, usually wins the day. Have a lovely weekend. Mimi xxx

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  8. Well done, and I'm mighty glad you got his stipend restored.

    Your reasonable tone of voice and having all the facts at hand to share no doubt made it much easier for the MP's office to get this resolved. I recently retired from working telephone triage at a doctor's office. I always did my best to sympathize and help folks who called with problems, but it really rattled me when someone attacked me and/or the doctors before even telling me what they needed help with.

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    1. Thankyou chipmunk. I can imagine that you would have been on the receiving end of some poor persons worries more than once in that role! I bet you did your best, but yes, you aren't the one who can fix things. Going to the person who CAN fix your problem is always the best strategy. Thankyou for the lovely comment chipmunk. Mimi xxx

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  9. Dear Mimi,
    We all need to forward to this to someone who is having problems like this as I think it is happening to a fair few people. As you say when did anyone suddenly get better from a disability like this?
    It really worries me that people this happens to might not know what to do or have someone to stand up for them. That is just awful.
    It is wonderful this was fixed so quickly! Im so glad about that.
    It is a bit of a case of things go along smoothly and then there is a spanner in the works for no real reason! Well done. Much love Annabel.xxx

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    1. Dear Annabel, you're right. This is such an important strategy, and with world events being what they are, is likely to become more so as time goes by. The thing is that you have to speak to the person who can intervene strenuously on your behalf, not just the one who gets your name up on a computer and regurgitates what you already know. We are on first name terms with our local MP due to so many issues surrounding my son, and it's a valuable relationship in so many ways. It's worth remembering always that they are our voice and we should avail ourselves of their assistance without hesitation. That is their role. I hope you have a lovely weekend. Love, Mimi xxx

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  10. Such a great post...

    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!

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  11. It's good to know that elected officials someplace are helpful in a timely manner. Good advice regardless of which country.

    Judith

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I love hearing from you! I always respond to comments, so don't be shy! Mimi xxx