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Byron Shire
August 12, 2022

Aged care calamity

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Some weeks it’s hard to navigate the big feelings I have around injustice; the kind of injustice that occurs every day, everywhere, underwritten by the privilege of some at the expense of the many. The shit stuff people get away with! The shit stuff no one notices. Shit stuff always happens to people who don’t have much to start with. I sometimes wonder how you can hear story after story and not realise the system is broken. Capitalism sucks. Let’s go break stuff – like, the dominant paradigm! We haven’t managed to subvert it – so can we smash it into tiny pieces? Please?

We are both in our 80s, have a Home Care Package, but now need to select a home care service provider who requires a Centrelink Fee Advice Letter. As we both receive age pensions we are told on: www.myagedcare.gov.au/income-and-means-assessments/ that, ‘If your aged care provider requests a fee advice letter please call Services Australia on 1800 227 475 or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs on 1800 555 254’.

Since 4 July I have repeatedly called 1800 227 475, 132 300 and other suggested numbers without success. The Centrelink phone app has nothing relevant to this issue and simply sends us back to the same number which does not answer after 16 minute’s [of ringing]! This lack of response is totally unacceptable. Elderly people are not as cognitively alert as they used to be and most are not computer literate.

We contacted Justine Elliot’s office and also that of the Minister for Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, asking for their intervention, not just for us, but for our aged cohort. We are still waiting for the Fee Advice Letter, so now we are faced with the invidious choice of wasting time and the environment by travelling either to Brunswick Heads or Ballina to access Centrelink!

Gareth Smith, Maxine Caron, Byron Bay

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  1. I, too, am frequently frustrated by the assumption of government departments that the elderly (and others) are assumed to have IT skills.
    What was Justine’s response to your complaint that “Services Australia” (whatever that is) wouldn’t answer their phone?

  2. “We are both in our 80s, have a Home Care Package, but now need to select a home care service provider who requires a Centrelink Fee Advice Letter.”
    What is a “Fee Advice Letter’? Is it a Free Advice Letter.
    “We are both in our 80s, have a Home Care Package, but Centrelink now requires us to take a Fee Advice Letter to our selected a home care service provider”

  3. My daughter sought a review of a decision to reduce my age pension in 2013 when I advised Centrelink that I had married. It seems the assumption was that being married meant I had an economic advantage even though my wife was unemployed and receiving no benefit from Centrelink. You fill in one form that then requires filling in follow up forms and follow up forms to the follow up forms. The system is clearly designed to be complicated and discourage the dregs of society like myself from seeking assistance. My daughter acted as nominee but, with other commitments. asked me to complete the latest request for copies of our bank statements. Centrelink advised if I did not provide the required information by July 27 my pension, my only source of income, would be stopped. When I tried to upload the documents they were deemed not to be in the appropriate format. Eventually I was able to upload the required documents and had asked for confirmation that the information was adequate and hoping for a prompt review. So far it has taken three months and four weeks on from when I uploaded the documents received no further advice. I am not holding my breath

    I was bemused when Morrison advised flood affected victims to make applications for assistance through Services Australia. The complexities are staggering and the last telephone call I made to Centrelink took 50 minutes and cost me $20. I feel sorry for refugees and migrants who do not have English as their first language in trying to negotiate this appalling system. It will be a test of the Albanese government to see if they can address these problems but with all the present economic difficulties it is not probably a priority for attention.


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