‘Worst time of my life’: Woman, 62, shares heartbreaking experience with Newstart

Ricci Bartels said she was forced onto Newstart at the age of 62 after being made redundant. Source: Twitter - Q&A

As regular calls to raise the rate of Newstart continue to plague the Coalition, one woman has opened up about her own isolating experience with Australia’s welfare system on the ABC’s Q&A program, revealing it has been the “worst time of her life”.

Making an emotional speech during Monday night’s episode, Ricci Bartels said she was forced onto Newstart at the age of 62 after being made redundant.

“I have paid taxes for 46 years… I’ve worked 20 years in the private sector and 26 years in the public sector for a not-for-profit community service,” she explained.

“I was forced on to Newstart at the age of 62 through change of management and subsequent retrenchment.”

However, the woman went on to say she has been unable to find a job since starting on the welfare system, adding: “I’ve experienced Newstart for three years, JobActive left me to my own devices. I could not find a job no matter how hard I tried.”

She continued: “To put it in a nutshell it [being on Newstart] is the worst time of my life, the loss of dignity, the loss of friends because you can’t go out, you can’t socialise, not eating proper foods even though I suffer various ailments, looking for a job applying for a job, not getting the job.”

The current rate of Newstart sits at $277.85 per week, which works out at just under $40 per day. And, unlike other countries, the allowance is paid at a set rate, regardless of individual circumstances or what people may have been earning prior to finding themselves out of work.

In response, Liberal MP Jason Falinski said the government have done a number of things to try and make the system, which is a $172billion welfare system per-annum, “as bespoke as possible in response to the needs of individuals as much as possible”.

“It may be in your particular case we haven’t been as accessible as we need to be but we keep trying,” he added.

Responding to him directly, the woman reiterated her statement saying being on the welfare program “was the worst time of [her] life”.

“And Jason with respect, you haven’t answered my question. What do you suggest people like me, at my age or at a young age for that matter, how do they ‘have a go to get a go’? This is so important: ‘Have a go, get a go’, this is so divisive.”

The Liberal MP appeared to be speechless, before saying: “I can’t tell you how … I don’t know enough about your life circumstances to comment.

“All I can say is we as a Government are doing as much as we possibly can to create a system that allow people to get as quickly from welfare to work as possible. We have a very highly targeted welfare system in this country. It has been very successful in ensuring poverty levels and inequality are kept low.”

Have you ever claimed Newstart? Do you think more needs to be done to address unemployment and age discrimination relating to older workers?

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