Most of our clients receive some type of Centrelink or Veterans Affairs benefit. A few are simply experiencing a temporary emergency. They come from all walks of life and are aged from youth to elderly. Each attends a brief interview with one of our volunteers and is asked to show their benefits card and explain their situation. Some clients stay with us for only a short time while they recover from a crisis, while others require longer term assistance and sometimes referrals to other services. For example, some might come only near the beginning of school terms when high education costs make it difficult to also put food on the table.
Around 40% of our clients are on disability pensions, 25% on parenting payments, 22% are on Newstart (the dole). A small portion are on the Old Age Pension. Unless the elderly are in rented accommodation, it seems that that generation can manage. Recipients of Youth Allowance, Carer’s Allowance, low paid workers, migrants and
A relatively small proportion list their native language as other than English. Legal migrants have no access to Centrelink benefits, nor do asylum seekers. A very small number of these come to us for help. Refugees get the same allowances as other Australians such as child allowances, parenting payments and Newstart. Many clients have been on our books a long time, but only come intermittently. These are people who manage most of the time, but are thrown off balance by such things as high utility bills, car problems or school expenses. Some, mostly disability pensioners or those on Newstart, have been coming regularly for a long time, and we are seeing a few cases of intergenerational disadvantage.
Here are 4 examples of the types of clients we assist. Names have been changed to protect their identity.
“Linda” is a young girl living on Newstart and renting a room for $180 per week. This left her with $70.50 to live on until she was granted rent assistance. Maximum rent assistance is $120.20 a fortnight if you are paying more than $267 a week. Persons on Newstart are usually seeking employment. To be successful in finding a job, a person has to look presentable, have a telephone so that they can be contacted by prospective employers, and have a means of getting to interviews or money for public transport.
“Jack” is an example of a client requiring intense assistance. His family carries a gene associated with a serious disease. He, himself, has the disease and it is now progressing to the younger generation in his family. He comes as much for friendly support as for assistance with food. This particular client is not eligible for a disability pension because he is on workcover from a previous injury. He is really struggling.
“Maria” is a beautiful and educated Mother, whose marriage broke down due to severe domestic violence. To add to her other problems, Maria was hit by a car a few months ago and spent several days in hospital, and now has an ongoing injury. Waverley Benevolent has been able to help her feed her family as well as provide a supportive role.
“June” was a highly qualified professional. She had been working on contract until she fell in the carpark and injured herself quite severely. Her temporary employer refused to wait until she was well enough to recommence work and terminated the contract. She is responsible for her house mortgage and the upkeep of two teenage children. She arrived in our office in a very distressed state. We were able to assist her with essential food needs, and provide a supportive "listening post". In such cases, we are often able to refer people to other resources to deal with complex needs.