Opinion

Life is a daily challenge on jobseeker and a $1.80 a day rise will still leave us well short of enough to survive

Every waking moment is filled with thoughts of: “Are we going to have enough money to make it through today?” The luxury of being able to make planning decisions for the future is alien to us.

Jobseeker payment will be increased marginally (by $1.80 per day from 20 September) and it is welcomed but this will still leave us well short of enough income to survive.

We have a deficit of $350 per month – this means we constantly have unpaid bills. We despair that the poverty that we have already lived in and a poverty mentality will scar our child.

Survival is a daily challenge. Over time it becomes impossible to see yourself in a positive light. To maintain the self-belief and confidence to picture yourself once again earning an independent income is hard. I have no mental headspace available for thoughts of the future.

Top of my mind are competing anxious questions: Have we got enough to pay the rent this week? Yes, good, we keep a roof over our heads. Do we have enough food for a meal for tonight? My wife, Jennifer, or I visit the supermarket daily. We peruse the fresh food items that are close to their use-by date in search of a protein item for a discounted price. Yes! There will be a nicer meal tonight. No! What leftovers are in the fridge, if any? Or will it be eggs and hope we have a tin of something to go with that? In the fresh fruit and vegetable aisle – is there fruit in season that’s reasonably priced? What’s in the “specials” shelf that is over-ripe? Do we have at least one slice of bread left over for our child’s packed school lunch tomorrow? Can we afford another six-pack of orange juice poppers to allow one per day for their packed lunch?

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My mental health suffers when my mind is consumed with making these daily essential survival decisions. How can I be expected to write job applications and paint myself in a positive light to potential employers? After sending off many well-written job applications and rarely, if ever, receiving a response, it becomes harder and harder to maintain the effort required to continue. This is soul-destroying.

On the recent occasions I was invited to a job interview I had to assess: Is there enough petrol in the car to make the drive there and back? The pressure to make a good impression on the employer made me nervous and reduced my self-confidence in the interview. I feared my desperation was palpable and that it sabotaged any chance I had of making a good impression. I didn’t come across as confident, even though I knew I could easily fulfil the role on offer.

My physical health suffers. Dental checkups are not within our budget. My teeth are paying the price for my deteriorating oral health.

I wasn’t always such a shambling wreck. For 40 years in the workforce, I was always considered a valuable asset to any workplace I was employed in.

Job adverts read as: “Dynamic person required to join young, fast-paced team. No two days are the same! Agility to swiftly change from task to task vital.” Employers are crying that they can’t find workers. It seems what they can’t find are “younger”, cheaper workers.

Despite the rhetoric, no one deliberately makes a “lifestyle choice” to live on jobseeker. It only takes one unexpected circumstance to end up in my shoes.

It’s hard to know what started the spiral – was it the 2008 global financial crisis? Becoming a parent? Relocating interstate? Becoming mature-aged? Covid?

We have learned to survive on an income well below the poverty line but forcing our child to do so as well is not creating a positive future outlook for them. Our teenager has developed a discerning eye. They clearly see the daily lived experience of the hardships of poverty that our family is forced to live within.

We worry that being trapped in poverty will have a lasting impact on their options and future.

Mark Goodrick is a qualified chef. His wife, Jennifer Searson, is a lab technician and has a Certificate III in education support and in business administration. They relocated to Queensland and have not found suitable work for the last five years. Mark receives the jobseeker payment and Jennifer has moved from jobseeker to the lower carer’s payment after their teenager was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder

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