‘It’s a struggle to get by living on the disability pension’

Sep 09, 2019
This community member shares the challenges of living on the Australian disability support pension. Source: Getty Images

It’s been nine days since my disability support pension (DSP) was paid into my bank account, along with the few dollars for the power offset and the rent assistance. Guess what, I’m broke with another week to go before the pension is due.

Now a DSP is the same amount of money as an Age Pension, but I would like to explain where my money has gone. This is a typical fortnight for me.

My pension goes into my bank account early on a Thursday morning. By 9am I have paid my rent, paid money into my power so I don’t have a bill I can’t pay when it comes, and this fortnight my phone bill is due (under $50). I don’t have NBN or pay for Netflix etc. Those are luxuries I simply cannot afford.

Once I have attended to the bills, it’s off to get groceries and put a few dollars’ worth of petrol in the car. That amount is becoming less and less. On Thursdays, I go to an exercise class run by the council, which costs me petrol and $2 for the class. This pay I have also had to buy my medication. I am lucky because I get the discount, but I couldn’t possibly get it otherwise.

When I get groceries, there is very rarely treats amongst them. Recently though I bought a $1 chocolate. I have learned to cook in bulk, using cheaper meat or chicken and usually frozen vegetables. I buy fruit. That is my treat.

I used to go to the movies, but haven’t been able to afford it in months. A family member has set up my phone as a hotspot so I can use his Netflix.

I no longer buy coffee when shopping. I do go for the odd drive, but not quite as far as I used to. Petrol has become too expensive.

I’m glad the library is free. I love to read and can’t afford to buy books anymore. My health prevents me from walking much, but when I do I enjoy it.

I live in a small unit, which is fine with me. I love it. My home is clean and furnished with everything I need. The rent just keeps going up though and I am thousands down the lists for cheaper housing.

However, when it is time for rego for the car or new tyres, it’s hard. The public transport isn’t great where I live and with my health I’m forced to rely on my car to get me as close as possible to where I’m going.

I don’t mind having no money most of the time. I don’t owe anybody anything and when I go op shopping I have a great time. I’m not hungry.

I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me or tell me to stop whinging. At the time of writing I had $49 in the bank. I feel it’s important for people to understand that sometimes there are those, like me, doing it a bit tough. It could always be worse.

I once had a home, but circumstances out of my control took that and my savings from me. It had nothing to do with not planning for my future or being lazy.

How anyone is expected to survive on Newstart is beyond me. It baffles me how any older person who has been made redundant and is forced to rely on government pensions can manage. There is age discrimination in many many parts of the work force. Some of us only have a pension to rely on and none should feel guilty because we have all paid a massive amount of tax over the years.

I don’t know of anyone in my age bracket that wants to be on a pension. I can be quite tiresome being made to feel like I’m sponging off the government, not to mention degrading. I don’t feel I am ‘sponging’ off the government. It is my money being used; the taxes I’ve paid throughout my working life that have been put into the government bank accounts. I sometimes feel that the government changing the retirement age to make us older is just its way of avoiding having to increase the pension by $18 a year.

Each generation as its cross to bear. With any luck the generations to come will make it to old age.

I’m tired of being told I should be grateful. How grateful should I be to a government elected on the faith of its people to do right by its people? Life is getting more difficult. I’m not sure what chance we have as a nation to leave the country in ‘good’ condition for our children and grandchildren.

I just want to be able to pay my rent, eat and occasionally indulge in a piece of cake and a cappuccino. I don’t think that’s asking to much!

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