Single mum-of-three recovering from a stroke pressured to steal meals to feed her anorexic daughter after Jobseeker funds minimize
A single mother of three from Victoria claims she lives “like a farmer” and has been forced to steal food for her family since her jobseeker payments were cut last month.
Narelle *, 44, of Pakenham, southeast Melbourne, says she had two strokes in September 2017 that left her permanently disabled and unable to work.
She has since relied on jobseeker benefits, which slashed early last month and reduced her weekly income by $ 150.
After Narelle pays her rent, gasoline, water, WiFi, phone bills, and gasoline, she only has $ 20 left, two weeks for food.
That is used to feed herself and her youngest daughter, 18, who is still living at home.
“Sometimes you have to do what you have to do,” Narelle told 7NEWS.com.au. “I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to make a habit of stealing food to eat.”
But with her daughter recovering from anorexia, she feels like she has no other choice.
Narelle’s daughter was hospitalized for anorexia. Credit: Delivered
“There is constant pressure to see my daughter so thin and not feed her fruit or vegetables,” said Narelle.
“I can’t even go to the stores and get everything she needs.”
Her daughter, who just graduated from high school, has had anorexia since she was 16 and currently weighs only 36 kg.
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“Sometimes you have to do what you have to do”.
Last month Narelle was caught stealing groceries and essentials from their local grocery store.
“It was just food – bananas, milk, bread – and laundry detergent and shampoo and conditioner,” she said.
The shop released her with a warning.
A photo of Narelle’s daughter weighing herself. Credit: Delivered
“I’m really ashamed of it, it’s so shameful, it’s embarrassing,” she said.
Narelle does not know how she will continue to feed herself and her fighting daughter.
To save money, Narelle only ate one meal a day – a donut.
“I only have one donut a day,” she said.
“I’ve had three or four coffees, sometimes six, since my stroke.”
She only has $ 1 coffee from 7-11 – anything else would be too expensive.
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“I am really ashamed”.
“Either that or I’ll have pasta or baked beans or go without,” she added.
“The closets look bare (right now).”
To save money, Narelle only has one donut a day so she can afford food for her daughter. Credit: DeliveredNarelle subsists on $ 1 worth of coffee and donuts. Credit: Delivered
Narelle is currently saving only $ 120.
Their youngest daughter also receives some Centrelink payments, and she receives $ 50 a month in child support from her ex-partner.
However, Narelle believes that it is not enough.
In January she applied for the disability pension, which would have given her a little more financial support.
She was encouraged by her social worker to apply for it as she believed she met the criteria.
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“My brain is broken”.
She has suffered from aphasia since her stroke, which sometimes makes it difficult for her to speak because her brain is neurologically damaged.
“I used to be my best lawyer, now I feel like my voice has been taken and my brain has been broken a bit,” she said.
Narelle has two other daughters, aged 26 and 24, but they are unable to help her financially.
She said her own life and the lives of her three daughters were “forever changed” after her stroke.
“My life changed forever overnight. I feel like I just exist. “
Since the near death experience, she has also been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and high blood pressure.
Even so, her application for a disability pension was denied in March.
Narelle with her youngest daughter. Credit: Delivered
“Live like farmers”
Narelle said she was particularly struggling as she got more used to the extra jobseeker payments before they were cut.
“During COVID, the government gave all Centrelink users a taste of what it is like to live,” she said.
“I could save whatever for emergencies, vacations, car problems”.
She said she had never been on vacation and neither had her youngest daughter.
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They “just take all the money away and let us live like farmers again”.
“I was able to save $ 4,000 and get along during COVID,” she added.
“COVID is coming in and so I was part of society like everyone else.
“My payments went from $ 350 per two weeks to $ 885, and that’s a big difference, and now I’m getting $ 330 per two weeks
“How dare the government give a sense of importance or a glimpse into sustainable living and then just take all the money away and let us live like farmers again?”
Narelle is embarrassed that she cannot support her own daughter. Credit: Delivered
The government answers
Hank Jongen, General Manager of Services Australia, told 7NEWS.com.au that the clear disability pension criteria meant they couldn’t help Narelle.
“We know this is an extremely difficult situation for Narelle * and her family,” he said.
“We cannot discuss individual cases, but we have contacted Narelle to ensure that she has all the support available.
“We are aware that illnesses can have a significant impact on people’s lives. However, we have no discretion to make payments outside of the criteria set out in the legislation.
“We encourage anyone who gets into financial trouble to contact us.
“We have social workers and specialists who help people in dangerous or complex situations.”
The Department of Social Services rejected Narelle’s claim that the government had stolen her chance to live.
“On April 1, 2021, the Australian government increased unemployment benefits the most since 1986 year over year – a 9.7 percent increase between April 1, 2020 and April 1, 2021,” a spokesman said.
* Name withheld due to privacy concerns.
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