This response is from a man in his 20s. Centrelink knows about his disability but he says he has not applied for the DSP because “They would never approve me – it would be months of stress I cannot handle for no outcome”. He has requested that his name be withheld.

I sincerely believe that if I was forced back onto payments, I would kill myself before engaging with that system.

Survey responses

Provider nameAPM
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 had paid work, study commitments or caring duties at the same time as being required to do ‘mutual’ obligations?Yes, I have had paid work while doing ‘mutual’ obligations; Yes, I have been a student
Do you have any paid work?Yes

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?

I want the security that if I ever lose my job, or cannot work for a time, I won’t lose my home – that I’ll be able to survive until I can get back into it. I want to work, I like working, but the hoops I needed to jump through last time to not even get paid means I stay in bad or exploitative situations just because I’m terrified of the alternative, and it’s crushing.

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

I had a traumatic experience and I sincerely believe that if I was forced back onto Newstart payments, I would kill myself before engaging with that system again. This is not a threat but it’s also not hyperbole. I also know I was of the luckier ones, which might be one of the most depressing things I’ve ever written.

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

If I was supported to have time to heal I would, right now, be in a position where I am more stable and more able to support myself. Being forced to keep going or risk dying of starvation homeless when I was in my darkest place has permanently scarred me and I will never recover. Centrelink has become part of my disability.

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

Stress compounds for me and makes my stability deteriorate – when I was doing enough work to pay rent but not meet my alleged work capacity I was hounded that my payments would get cut if I didn’t keep looking or work – despite working and studying.

Has a provider ever caused a problem with your payment?

Respondents may select more than one option

  • Yes, and my payment was late
  • Yes, and my payment was suspended
  • Yes, and my payment was cancelled entirely

What is the worst activity you have had to do?

My job agency made me attend regular workshops about how to find a job and update my resume on the threat of having my payments cut – despite already having an up to date resume and attending job interviews which I applied for on my own with exactly no help from them, and Centrelink refusing to give me payments without explanation. After I got my job, on my own without their interference, they coerced me into signing a disability job plan (I am schizophrenic and when unwell, am easily suggested). The only thing a job agency did was create more stressors for me – nothing they did helped me get a job.

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

I had to attend a whole lot of meetings and workshops and yet they were the only ones that seemed to profit from it. They gave me some cash on my myki occasionally I guess?

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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