Disability pension not enough to buy food

·2-min read

A woman on the disability support pension has broken down in tears in front of senators as she asked for enough money to afford food.

Ricki Spencer said she would be left with $20 or $30 "on a good fortnight" for food after rent, bills and medicines were paid for with her pension.

When the cost of her medication went up during the pandemic she was forced to skip meals and eat only canned food bought previously, for two months.

Ms Spencer called for an extra $30 a fortnight so she could afford fresh milk and food which she did not need to scrape off mould to eat.

"I am embarrassed to say it, I never thought in my whole life I would be looking at food that had gone off because I need to eat," she told a Senate committee through tears on Tuesday.

"I always thought I would work and now I feel I'm old and nobody wants me to work.

"I am just at the mercy of the government."

Ms Spencer said she had to beg real estate agents to let her rent a place despite not missing a rent payment for eight years because she did not have savings or superannuation.

She was so scared of being homeless and not being able to afford housing she told the agent she would not complain, tend the garden and accept the house as it was.

Advocates for secure housing told the committee that inappropriate dwellings for people like Ms Spencer - who had to crawl up and down stairs - impacts their health and prevents them actively participating in society.

Thomas Chailloux from the Public Interest Advocacy Centre said people on the disability pension were at risk of homelessness because their complex and fluctuating needs cannot be addressed on the current rate.

Insecure housing and not having enough money for rent would then cause a spiral when people stop buying medication and food in the hope of being able to afford a safe place to sleep.

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