Left behind: A middle-class Riverina man had the world at his feet until a freak accident and storm of bad luck left him destitute, alone, jobless and depressed, relying on charities to keep him alive. Picture: Kieren L Tilly John had everything he ever wanted –a good job, a good income and a loving family. Now he lives off $20 a week.
His harrowingstory follows a concerning rise in families struggling financially across the Riverina, Wagga’s charity leaders say.
The 47-year-old –who could not be identified for legal reasons –lost everything when a car crash in 2016 left him unable to work.
The Riverina father was working as an engineer, on a wage higher than $200,000 when a negligent driver crashed into his car on the drive to work.
A storm of bad luck followed.
In a cruel twist, he discovered legislation had changed so he was no longer eligible for compensation on the work commute and he could notmake a claim on his income insurance until his sick leave ended.
While deemed medically unfit to work, John was unable to claimuntil his redundancy package dried up.
The catch: He could not afford to maintain the premiums during this time and had to cancel the policy.
Depression then broke John’s family apart. Now he rarely sees hisdaughters.
“I lost everything,” he said.“You name it, I lost it.”
John said he couldn’t apply for the disability pension while his third-party insurance claim was being processed, which his solicitor saidcould take years.
After a long battle with Centrelink, the 47-year-old was granted a small income that leaves him with $40 a fortnight,butthe human services departmenthave since lost his medical records and cut his payments.
With large debts owing to medicare, lawyers, Centrelink andchild support to pay, Johnstruggles to afford foodandrelies on the charity of St Vincent de Paul to live and the support of Centacare.
John never thought he’d be in this position.
“I’ve done everything right and this is the way it all falls apart,” he said.
“I now understand how people can become homeless.”
He saidAustralians were lucky to receive help but he didn’t think it was fair charities or the government should pay for a flawed bureaucratic system.
“It’s hard to accept help and ask for help,” John said.
“I’m embarrassed, I’m ashamed, I feel like there’s something I could have done.”
Centacare chief executive Paul Jensen said more and more middle-class Australians were doing it tough and needing help.
Mr Jensen said the majority of residents didn’t like asking for aid and only did so asa“last hope”and“last resort”.
“They’re sleeping rough, living day to day, paycheck to paycheck and struggling to make ends meet,” Mr Jensen said.
“The growing socio-economicinequality gap is backed by data.”
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