I’ve been following the story after the extraordinary claim earlier this month that Minister for Families Jenny Macklin thinks she would be able to step away from the $6,000+ a week she earns, and live off Newstart Allowance.
I’m sorry to say you pair, a week is too damn easy.
How abouts you both do it for a whole month – honestly six months would be even better. That would give you a real feel for it.
Let’s add three kids into the mix, just for humours sake. I even have a scenario for you to play along to for two weeks of that month.
- The following is Part 1. I’ll post Part 2 next Monday.
You are a single parent to three kids.
You didn’t finish high school.
Became a parent before you were twenty.
And have no qualifications under your belt due to leaving school early.
Because your youngest just turned eight, you no longer qualify for Parenting Payment single, you are on Newstart allowance. Which means your payment has dropped one week from approx $660 to $530 – that’s a drop of just over $130. Up until this stage you have not been able to study due to being a recipient of Parenting Payment and being exempt from looking for work. Which means the government would not subsidise any course at TAFE, or Distance Ed.
You have no qualifications or certificates to show to a perspective employer. You have been a stay at home Parent for majority of your grown up life.
Here is a little breakdown of your life and some of your monthly expenses.
- You are a single parent – you recently separated from your partner not long before your child’s eighth birthday.
- You have three children – one in primary school – 8yo. One a junior at high school – 14yo. One a senior at high school – 16yo.
- The 8yo catches the bus at 8.30am from the other side of your street. And returns home on the bus at 3.10pm, and is dropped off on the other side of the road.
- Rent $270 per week
- Electricity $50 per week – you’re on a payment plan with your leco company.
- You have the phone and internet connected.
- You own a heap of shit car that guzzles fuel. It’s the only car you could afford to buy.
- Shopping, xrays, specialist appointments, school clothes and shoe shopping etc. all entail a hour drive each way to the closest big town due to the small country town you live in not catering for these needs – this trip costs $30 for fuel.
- You own a dog.
This is your income…
So as it stands your total estimated income is $1416.82 per fortnight. $533 week 1 – $883.82 week 2.
Week 1 – Let’s assume Monday is your payment day.
For some reason the rent assistance you are entitled to has not been added to your payment since you were changed over to Newstart, you need to ring Centrelink to sort this out once the kids go to school. You are on the phone for 25 minutes waiting… You are transferred several times as the computer system is playing up, and they’re saying you are receiving rent assistance, however you most definitely aren’t. They’ll have to call you back within two hours…
You pay your rent of $270 – You’re left with $263.
You pay your $50 in accordance with your payment plan with the electricity company – You’re left with $213.
You put $30 in the fuel guzzling car ready to go shopping in the closest big town the next day [Tuesday] – $173 left.
You have an appointment at 2.50pm at the employment assistance centre. You tried to explain you needed an earlier appointment, but apparently this was all they had. If you miss this appointment you are in trouble for changing the third appointment in a row due to your kids being sick the previous two appointment times – your youngest gets out of school at 3pm and off the school bus at 3.10pm. Your oldest two don’t get home from school until 15 minutes after the youngest gets off the bus. You have 20 minutes to get this done and home because the little one – 8yo – will be crossing the road alone once they get off the bus…
You have $173 in your purse after day 1.
Centrelink didn’t return your call.
- You wake up to a eight year old with a fever. You go to get the bottle of painkillers but it’s empty. You have to go buy more.
It costs $10 – you’re down to $163 and you haven’t done the shopping for the week yet… You also have to ring and reschedule the job interview organised for you at 12pm by the employment agency yesterday…
You also have to ring Centrelink again due to your call not being returned by them. You are on hold this time for 15 minutes. The 8yo is crying in the background because their head hurts from a headache, and the painkillers aren’t helping the fever. But you have to get this call done so it’s all sorted out asap.
Because the youngest is sick you can’t travel to the closest town for groceries, you have to shop in your small town for the week.
- There’s no cheap milk left.. 4 x 3lt Dairy Farmers milk @ $6ea = $24
- 5 x loaves of bread @ $2.99ea = $14.95
- Tub black and gold margarine $3.95
- 1kg box of Weet-Bix $5.78
- Dammit it’s small week and you need potatoes – $14 for the 10kg bag. It will last longer than the 4kg bag for $8.
- Frozen peas and corn – $4.70 + $5.45
- Sausages $12 per kg, you need 2 to get through – $24
- 1kg mince $10
- Sanitary pads $6.05 a pack – no choice you need these. Two packs should get you through – $12.10
- $44 left… you decide to hold off on shampoo and conditioner this week just in case you need anything for the kids.
The little one is still sick…
That’s just two days into your week. $44 dollars left, a sick child. Five days to go. I’ll leave you to get through the other five days by yourselves….
And just in case that depressed you too much. My kids just showed me this, it will brighten your mood, or get stuck in your head like it has mine.
*Edited to add* P.S. My hat is off to you Mr Bandt for actually having the balls to try this. I really hope what you are doing does open the eyes of the decision makers of this country – and your own eyes a little more. A week is only a speck of so many peoples reality. But I’m sure being so financially secure and jumping into the poor pool is a little freaky.