This response is from a Melbourne man in his 30s. He has a disability but his DSP claim was rejected. He has requested that his name be withheld.

Mutual obligations completely and unequivocally fucked up my mental and physical health.

Survey responses

Which payment do you get from Centrelink?JobSeeker
Do you ever worry about losing your payment?Yes
Provider namesAimBig, APM
Do ‘mutual’ obligations activities make your mental or physical health worse?Yes
Have you been able to access programs or services through a job agency or other provider that helped to improve your physical or mental health?No
Have you ever experienced mistreatment from a provider or other organisation because of activities you were required to do?Yes, I have been bullied or abused
Have you ever had paid work, study commitments or caring duties at the same time as being required to do ‘mutual’ obligations?No
Do you have any paid work?No

If you were able to speak directly to the politicians who decide what we need to do to get a Centrelink payment, what would you say to them?

Rich people don’t make economies, middle class consumers do. If you genuinely want a prosperous Australia filled with prosperous people, grow a backbone and implement a proper Universal Basic Income, alongside inflation caps like we already do with energy pricing. Australians invented Wifi, refrigeration, power boards, and are the forerunners in quantum computing. Imagine how much better this country would be if you didn’t force jobseekers to piss away their time and employers time trying accomplish the mathematically impossible feat of having half a million unemployed people all find a job from a pool of 150,000 available jobs. You know it’s stupid. You know the Murdoch press will give you shit regardless of the decision you make. So stop pandering to conservatives who lost the last election in spite of complete media dominance, and start doing what you where elected to do.

Do you do any unpaid work?

Yes, I am a home maker. I do domestic labour for my partner who runs a small business. This takes up most of her time and energy, so I try to contribute around the house hold since I’m unemployed.

Do you want to say anything about your experience with Centrelink or living on payments?

Centrelink is a system designed from the ground up to create slaves without calling it slavery. The fact that so many job search providers are owned by liberal MPs to funnel taxpayer funds into their pockets instead of helping people, is a damning indictment on a murderous and corrupt system.

Do you want to say anything about your experiences of being disabled in the workforce and/or on Centrelink payments?

Four separate professional psychologists and psychiatrists agree that I’m on the autism spectrum. But I can’t afford a diagnosis that costs thousands of dollars, so I don’t qualify for the help I need. In my time working in financial services, back when I was young enough to simply endure the sleep deprivation my unique combination of neurodivergance has bestowed upon me, I made superannuation funds millions of dollars. But like most people, I got paid a wage that was the tiniest fraction of the value I actually produced. And now I can’t afford a CPAP machine to help me sleep, or to pay rent, or own a home, or get a diagnosis that would help me go back to earning a large business millions in exchange for very little. And I get called a deadbeat by a media monopoly that works in tandem with the coalition to shit on the people that made them wealthy.

What effect do ‘mutual’ obligations have on your wellbeing?

I have ADHD and ASD. These work in tandem to create a complicated and awful sleep ‘cycle’, It’s a constantly rotating non 24 hour sleep cycle that flips from nocturnal to diurnal to biphasic roughly every fortnight. I had to quit my last full time job because the sleep deprivation made me suicidal in the long term. As you can imagine, this makes scheduling anything for 9-5 industrial era working hours a pain. Every DES provider has actively ignored this medical need from the outset, without fail, despite being notified in advanced and reminded of their obligations under the DES charter. And every time they’d ignore my medical needs, call me at 9 AM when I’m usually asleep, (or just forget to call me at all) and then claim that I’d missed an appointment and send a text threatening to cut my payments, even though it was ALWAYS the DES provider who had either ignored the previously scheduled time or just flat out forgot to call me in the first place. And every time this would cause me to have a panic attack. And having a panic attack scheduled for every fortnight because you KNOW they’re going to ignore your medical needs and then lie about it brings on perpetual anxiety.

Before being on centrelink and having ‘mutual’ obligations I had my anxiety disorder largely under control. ‘Mutual’ obligations single handedly brought it back, along with close brushes of suicide ideation. It also meant I had 0 energy left over to actually apply for jobs, let alone engage in basic acts of self care, or helping my partner with the domestic labour she needs me to do.

To summarise: Mutual obligations completely and unequivocally fucked up my mental and physical health, created an extra drain on the public health system, made it nearly impossible for me to find a job, and almost got me killed. I used to work full time. Thanks to mutual obligations, I might never work again. Oh, and some employers got a bunch of disingenuous job applications via email, so I guess that sucks for them too.

Has a provider ever caused a problem with your payment?

Respondents may select more than one option

  • Yes, and my payment was suspended
  • Yes, and my payment was cancelled entirely
  • Yes, but I was able to fix the problem before my payment was affected

What is the worst activity you have had to do?

APM tried to coerce me into attending job search meetings at covid hotspots, on the eve of a state government lockdown. This was prior to vaccines being available to the public. I told them I didn’t want to go to a covid hotspot when the state government had announced curfews would be in effect that very evening. APM said “The pandemics is over, you need to attend appointments in person or we’ll cut your payments.” I refused to attend despite their threats. Keep in mind that APM is a disabilities job search provider, which means they were attempting to force immuno compromised people to go to major covid hotspots during a time when no Australians were vaccinated. I would not be surprised if APM got people killed doing this.

Do you want to say anything about your experience with your providers?

Aimbig bribed me into leaving my current DES provider at the time by advertising jobs on SEEK, which I applied for, and then contacting me and claiming that there was a high probability “pretty much a sure thing, we just need you to make the switch” that I would get the job if I switched over to them as my DES provider. I was reluctant, but I really wanted the job as it was ideal for my skill set and worked well with my disability and circumstances. Once the switch was made I didn’t get the job (or even make it to an interview). Things rapidly declined from there, as every 2 weeks Aimbig would schedule my appointments for when I was asleep ( I have a complicated sleep disorder) even though I had repeatedly made them aware of my medical needs. As a result every 2 weeks they’d ignore or forget my medical needs, then falsley claim I had missed an appointment, and threaten to cancel my payment. and Every 2 weeks I would wake up to an anxiety attack inducing text message and scramble to try and get them to do their half of the ‘mutual’ obligations as a DES provider. It took 6 months, four formal complaints, repeated gaslighting from their employees, and an absurd amount of anxiety attacks, depressive episodes, and massive sleep deprivation, but I finally got them to meet their half of the ‘mutual’ obligations with regards to acknowledging my medical needs. At least they didn’t try to murder me by forcing me to go to covid hotspots without a vaccine like APM did.

As I’ve stated in previous parts of the survey, these guys just straight up try to get disabled people killed. Can you imagine how fucking stupid an irresponsible you’d have to be to say “the pandemic is over now, you must attend appointments in person” to thousands of disabled people in the 2nd half of 2020, when their offices are right in the middle of hotspots? Pure. Fucking. Evil.

Placement experience – training

I really lucked out with this training. Aimbig advised that they normally won’t pay for training unless it’s got an Australian recognised accreditation. The problem with that is that I wanted training in 3D modelling, and 3D modelling courses in Australia are expensive and poor quality. But since l’d made all of those complaints with Aimbig previously to get my medical needs recognised, I’m now lucky enough to have a manager as my contact person there. I was able to get her to agree to purchasing the training because it was on sale and really cheap, and she reduced my job plan to 1 job a month so I can actually do the online course. I never thought anything like this would ever happen based on my previous 18 months experience with DES providers.

Training organisation
Do you think the person or people running the training were appropriately qualified?Yes
Did the training suit your skill level?Yes
Do you think the training activities were useful or important?Yes
Did you learn something valuable from the training that you think makes you more employable? Yes
Was the course with a TAFE or a private training provider?RTO. is a private trainer I picked.
Was the training organisation connected to your job agency?No
Did you organise the course yourself?Yes
Did you enjoy the training activities?Yes
Did you participate in training by choice?Yes
What type of training or activities did you do?3D modelling using Blender, a 3D software that’s open source and free.
Did the training you received help you get a job?Yes
What do you think is the quality of the training you received?High

Employment services survey

The Punishment for Profit report is based on hundreds of responses to surveys conducted by the Antipoverty Centre. This research is ongoing. If you are in Workforce Australia, Disability Employment Services or a similar program, we welcome any information you are able to share about your experiences.

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