Man with critical illness told to find work

Published 16 Jan 2015

Centrelink has told a man suffering from a rare malignant brain tumour that he must try to find work in order to receive state benefits.

John Grayson, 33, was diagnosed with the stage three disease on Christmas Eve, but will be required to search for a job to be eligible for the Newstart allowance.

"As I am trying to come to terms with all of this, one thing is driving me incredibly crazy - the strict requirements of the Disability Support Pension (DSP)," he told the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this month.

"The idea of a terminally ill person having to go out and look for a job feels like a kick in the groin."

Unfortunately, because Mr Grayson is still fairly healthy and is not currently undertaking radiotherapy, he does not meet the criteria to receive the DSP. In addition, the type of cancer he has is so rare that it doesn't enable him to be fast-tracked for benefits through an amendment that covers critical illnesses.

Critical illness claims

People who are diagnosed with a terminal disease may be eligible for a critical illness claim under their superannuation or insurance policy. This allows them to receive a lump sum payment that could be essential in the months and years after receiving the bad news.

Cancer is just one of the illnesses commonly listed on policies, which often also include heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis.

The money awarded through a critical illness claim may help offset any economic losses experienced when taking time off work. It can also be used to pay for medical expenses and other health-related costs.

This financial support means individuals may not have to rely on state-funded benefits, which could be withdrawn or reduced if claimants fail to meet certain criteria. 

Government 'needs critical illness policy'

Commenting on Mr Grayson's case, Cancer Council Hunter Regional Manager Shayne Connell claimed it was a "crazy situation".

"There is a desperate need to build in some flexibility for people with terminal illnesses. The last thing someone with a terminal [disease] needs to be doing is running around looking for a job," he added.

According to Mr Grayson, his best chance of receiving financial support from the government is by claiming mental health benefits.

The strain of his diagnosis and the pressure of looking for work means his mental health has deteriorated significantly in recent weeks.

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