“Without Vinnies I don’t know where I’d be”

Monday 13 April 2020

After losing her job, battling mental health challenges and navigating the minefield of Centrelink, Lynn was ready to re-enter the workforce.

Then the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Lynn worked as an office manager for a solar company until late last year, when six months of built-up stress took its toll.

“I’ve had stressful jobs in my life but you get to the point where it becomes too much,” Lynn explains.

“When I get really stressed I end up shutting down and cutting myself off from my friends and the things that I enjoy. I spiral and that’s exactly what happened.”

Without a job and no longer eligible for the government’s sickness benefit, Lynn was left to wait five weeks before receiving her first JobSeeker Payment (known until recently as Newstart).

“When you phone Centrelink one person says one thing, another person tells you something else. It’s all computerised and they can say ‘your payment’s going to come through’ but if the computer says no, well you’re on your own.”

Having accrued modest savings to draw upon in the interim, by the time the fourth week of no income rolled around, a mounting pile of bills and expenses saw her turn to Vinnies for assistance.

“Centrelink kept pushing me back and I kept telling myself – ‘I’ll be right, I can last another week, I’ve got my credit card’ – at that point I had nothing, not a penny to my name.”

“I went to Vinnies because I literally had no money, no phone credit, my internet had been cut off, no food, no toilet paper – nothing.”

Since then we’ve been able to assist Lynn in a range of ways with home visits, food, house-hold items, medical prescriptions, vouchers to keep her phone connected and support to pay electricity bills.

“Getting the food and the assistance is awesome – it’s saved me a couple of times from starvation and the worry. Knowing that there’s people you can go to and talk to it’s really helpful and just so nice.”

Spending three weeks over the new year in her native New Zealand to visit her family and ill mother, Lynn felt a renewed sense of confidence and was ready to get back into work.

But when the coronavirus struck a few weeks later, the surge in panic-buying created a new issue experienced by thousands of Australian’s on low incomes.

Lynn was unable to purchase staples such as pasta, toilet paper and supermarket specials due to increased demand and stockpiling. The struggle of getting by on just $250 per week was made all the more difficult by social distancing measures that led to feelings of isolation.

“If I had to go into a lockdown completely for two weeks I don’t know what I’d do because I live on my own. I can’t afford home-delivery groceries – it’s hard,” Lynn says.

“My computer died in January so I was going to the library to use the computer there. Now that the library’s shut down I haven’t been able to access a computer to look for work and that’s really isolating.

“With the $750 (COVID-19 Economic Support Payment) I was able to purchase a new computer which made me really happy. It means that I can connect and find out what’s going on.”

Finding the way back from her challenges in recent times, Lynn is remaining upbeat in the face of the latest coronavirus setback thanks to the support of Vinnies.

“Last year I was in a really bad place when they helped me. I’m really thankful for the support, they’ve all been amazing,” she says.

“When this is all over I’d be glad to give any time that I could to pay back the kindness they’ve shown me.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulty due to the coronavirus, you can call Vinnies for support on 13 18 12.

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