Andrew Howard

I have developed a chronic pain condition, as a consequence of a rare bone disease called Perthes Disease as a child. During my working life, I was never given any pre employment medicals. My condition is not obvious, so employers either assume I’m healthy, or that I am making it up. My medical records don’t lie, and I have a surgical scar as proof. My gait is also affected, because one leg stopped growing for a time, so there is a 2 cm discrepancy compared to my other leg. Again, not something that is possible to fake.

I do not meet the criteria for the Disability Support Pension, therefore I am forced onto the JobSeeker circus. I am also forced to use DES Providers. The story is always the same, I explain my circumstances to each Provider, jump through all of their hoops as well as Centrelink, but I never actually get suitable work. Often I am put forward for totally unsuitable roles, despite me explaining explicitly what I can and can’t do safely.

Most of the jobs today require a pre employment medical. Employers are concerned about potential Work Cover issues, so screen out high risks. I am a high risk, compared to an applicant who doesn’t have the same condition. I have a trade qualification and years of experience in a highly specialized field, yet I have been unable to secure permanent, full time employment. Employers can’t say it is because I have a disability, and even with the Government incentives to pay for workplace modifications, I am still not getting a suitable job.

The armchair experts who say that we should go an pick fruit are sadly misguided, have no medical training, and no idea. It is simply not realistic. I need a job that will not aggravate my pain, such as a desk based role like data entry. Often these roles have a minimum typing speed. I cannot touch type, so I am too slow. Occasionally suitable roles do become available. I am registered with several Temping Agencies, and opportunities can come out of the blue. Some of the job descriptions are vague, and I don’t know until I start the role if it is something that I can do. I have been in the System for nearly 8 years now, and none of the DES Providers I have been with has actually succeeded in helping me get a suitable job. And of course over time, my pain levels are gradually getting worse.

Normal daily activities such as getting dressed, grocery shopping, walking, and cleaning cause pain spikes. Often I have difficulty sleeping, partly due to pain, and partly due to the worry and stress of not having a job. I am going backwards financially, slowly. I have tried to cut back on my spending as much as possible. I don’t go out, I don’t just buy stuff, I don’t use heating or cooling, and I have to pay for ever increasing Private Health Insurance, because the Public System has years long waiting lists. If I need an operation I’ll need it immediately, not in 4 years time.

The Government espouses the benefits of having a job, but doesn’t consider the barriers that people with disabilities face. I want to work, and contribute to society like everyone else, but not if my pain worsens. What would the Government suggest I do for a job?