Welfare is a waste of time

We all know now that welfare recipients are ‘leaners’, coasting on free money from honest, hardworking taxpayers. Part of this characterisation is the idea that being on welfare is easy:

In the last financial year, not a single person suffered a financial penalty (i.e. actually lost any welfare payments) for failure to job search. Many had suspensions, but all were fully backdated… We don’t help anyone by excusing poor behaviour. It simply entrenches disadvantage and robs them of opportunity.

Human Services Minister, Alan Tudge (24 October 2016)

So if everyone gets their money eventually, the Government’s doing its part, right? If welfare recipients aren’t fulfilling their requirements, it must be because they’re too lazy.

But anyone who’s been on a Centrelink payment before will tell you that they spend as much time jumping through hoops as they do actually looking for a job or studying. Faulty apps, automated payment suspensions, overloaded phone systems and indifferent—or, hell, straight-up mean—Job Services Providers can all create extra work for recipients.

Keeping on top of all this is essential. Centrelink payments are well below the poverty line, so having your payment frozen or your claim delayed isn’t trivial. Saving money is virtually impossible. Your payment could be backdated days, weeks or even months after suspension — by which time you’ve missed rent payments, asked for bill extensions and gone without food.

So you jump through hoops. You have a job, but you‘re late because you got a letter saying your payment was suspended and you have to spend an hour on the phone. You don’t get ten resumes out because you spent two hours filling in forms that ask identical questions.

This is a waste of time. Please Hold tracks it.

Pull Please Hold out whenever you have to do something to keep your payment going: calling someone, visiting an office, filling in a form or something else. The app asks you when you start and end activities and lets you store notes. It keeps a log of everything you’ve done before, so if you ever get asked when you handed that Rent Certificate in, you have an easy way to check.

Importantly, Please Hold is entirely local: nothing leaves your device unless you share it, so there are no accounts and no cloud problems. (On the flip side, you shouldn’t use this on a public kiosk!) This is designed to give recipients a way to track what they’ve done and a way to show people how much fucking time they waste keeping their payments up.

Please Hold also works well as a web app, so pin it to your home screen.

What’s planned?

A few things:

  • Data export. For now you can copy-paste the report out, but I’d love to export to a spreadsheet or a formatted report.
  • More statistics. It’d be nice to see whether I’m getting more efficient at filling in forms.
  • More activities tracked. Please Hold is mostly based on my experience as a student and jobseeker. If you feel like the app doesn’t capture your experience well, I’d love to hear about it. Comment, drop me a tweet or email me.
  • Better accessibility. I’ve tried to stick to HTML5 semantics and it should work well enough with a keyboard, but I’ve little experience with screen reader standards like ARIA, and I want to change that. If the app could be better for you, please let me know!

If you can’t wait for any of these improvements and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, you can always send a pull request.

So why d’you hate Centrelink so much?

Hate is a strong word! I’m frustrated with an inflexible system that often feels designed to punish people. Centrelink staff, on the other hand, are unfailingly helpful and sympathetic, even when they have to deal with my stroppy arse after I’ve been on hold or waiting for an hour. Thanks for doing everything you can to support us. ❤

Senior Knowledge Broker @mcccrh (personal views here) and former climate + health researcher. Making things for social good ❤

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