Man Battling Cancer and Centrelink Raises Social Media Storm
10 July 2018 at 12:42 pm
The ordeal of a father battling bowel cancer and Centrelink at the same time is setting social media ablaze, prompting a crowdfunding appeal and an outpouring of rage on Facebook.
A GoFundMe campaign started last week had so far raised $11,000 for Melbourne man Robert Laughlin after his sister posted on Facebook that her brother had been cut off his Newstart Allowance while undergoing treatment.
Her post had attracted more than 7,000 shares, 5,400 likes and 2,100 mostly angry comments aimed at the government.
The single father of two, who 18 months ago lost his wife to breast cancer, was admitted to a Melbourne hospital seven weeks ago.
The former builder, 54, was unable to drink and eat normally, and could barely speak or move, let alone meet his his reporting obligations under Newstart – that is, to report every two weeks, and apply for at least 20 jobs a month.
Laughlin’s payments, now reinstated by the Department of Human Services (DSS), had been suspended due to a lack of reporting.
In the chaos of being diagnosed, admitted to hospital, and organising care for his two sons, Laughlin had failed to supply a medical certificate informing the DSS of his illness, and claiming temporary exemptions from mutual obligations on medical grounds.
A message sent specifically to Centrelink. Take a good look and ask yourself. Do you think this man can call you every 2…
While exact details of Laughlin’s Centrelink income were not available, roughly someone in his position would get about $600 per fortnight on Newstart and $900 per fortnight on a Disability Support Pension (DSP).
A DSS spokesperson told Pro Bono News: “A Newstart recipient who is temporarily ill can apply to Centrelink for an exemption from their mutual obligation requirements.
”Alternatively, if they have a permanent disability, they can apply for Disability Support Pension (DSP).
“While awaiting the outcome of a (DSP) claim, the recipient is not subject to mutual obligation requirements.
“A person with a terminal illness (life expectancy less than two years with significant reduced work capacity) may qualify for a manifest grant of DSP, subject to meeting all other eligibility criteria.”
Laughlin’s family said an application for a DSP was declined because his condition was not “permanent”. He was expected to recover with treatment.
They said he had been unable to work since last December and he was probably not going to be well enough to work in the next six months.
While Laughlin’s single parent payments were enough to send his sons to school, it was not paying all the normal bills, not to mention medical, rehabilitation, housekeeping and nursing costs for when he returns from hospital, they said.
DSS general manager Hank Jongen told News Corp eligibility for a DSP was not based only on a diagnosis, but the impact of that diagnosis on a person’s ability to work.
In order to attain the DSP, the condition must be permanent, fully-diagnosed, treated and stabilised before DSS health professionals could assess the situation, he said.