HomeWoman on disability pension tells Senate she can only afford mouldy food

Woman on disability pension tells Senate she can only afford mouldy food

A pensioner has revealed she has to buy mouldy bread and can’t even afford fresh milk because of the meagre government support payments.

A woman on government payments has revealed she has to buy mouldy bread and can’t even afford fresh milk.

Speaking at a Senate inquiry into the disability pension on Tuesday, Ricki Spencer said she had to count every penny living on a government disability payment totalling less than $485 a week.

Ms Spencer broke down into tears as she shared the reality of life on the government support payment.

“It’s just hard,” she said.

“Even raising the rate by $30 or $40 a fortnight would help – it will be the difference between not eating and having something to eat.

“I’m not saying that we like steaks or anything like that. I’m just talking about having enough to buy fresh milk, not powdered milk, and bread that that’s not gone mouldy”

Ms Spencer said she was “embarrassed” to admit how she was living since the physical and mental health effects of her disability had forced her to stop working.

“I never thought in my whole life that I would be looking at food that’s gone off just so I can eat,” she said.

“I always thought I’d work. Nobody wants me to work now and so I’m at the mercy of the government.”

Even at its highest payable rate, Australia’s disability pension only just scrapes above the national poverty line of $457 per week.

With the average weekly rental cost of a unit now inching towards $430 per week, Ms Spencer said people on government payments were also battling to keep a roof over their heads.

“The problem is rent is going up, and changing it’s climbing to a higher rate, but rental assistance is being capped,” she said

Rent assistance for those on Centrelink is currently limited to a maximum payment of $135 per week.

“The problem with the $135 capping is that many of us are paying around $350 – which is the minimum now for rent a week,” Ms Spencer said.

“I rang up five (real estate) agencies in Bendigo … they said unfortunately, they will prioritise working people over people on Centrelink payments.”

Max Primmer, who has been on the disability pension since 2008 due to heart and major kidney failure, echoed Ms Spencer’s devastation.

Mr Primmer said not only had he struggled to afford fresh food on the pension, he had also been left with crippling medical bills after receiving a kidney transplant to keep him alive.

“I had to see a lot of surgeons and get anaesthetist and all sorts of people on board and that was not covered in any way by the pension,” he said.

“I had to come up with $600 here and $900 there. A couple of the operations I had done, I had to get reimbursed and that was like $600 upfront.

“It was very, very tough.”

In May, the Senate instigated an inquiry into the purpose, intent and adequacy of the Disability Support Pension. The final report from the inquiry will be handed down in February 2022.


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