The following story, shared by “L”describes the all too familiar feeling that, once on the workcover system, many of us become a prisoner of our own body and are being driven to what “L” can only describe as a “spiraling emotional unhealthiness and depression….”
Further to some recent comments about the widespread practice of “dodgy” rehabbers proposing bizarre “suitable/alternative work” to injured workers, courts have found that some (many!) proposed alternative occupations for injured workers are simply unrealistic.
Further to Survivor’s post “Fighting For Retraining In The Workcover”, and the many obstacles Victorian injured workers face when it comes to obtaining approval from their workcover insurer for “retraining”; we undertook some additional research into the frustrating “vocational re-education & retraining courses” process.
This article has been supplied by a long-term injured worker
I have been a Workcover victim for eleven years. To me, Workcover feels much more like a punitive jail than a rehabilitation centre. As an injured worker I became incredibly isolated by it, and felt locked in at home. I desperately want to escape this toxic system. In 2008 I took a pittance for common law claim settlement on the understanding that my contract of settlement contained a clause that committed Workcover to providing me with retraining that would enable me to find paying work that suited the impairment caused by my workplace injury.
My injuries arose when I was subjected to a form of bullying known as “workplace mobbing”. Consequently, I cannot be amongst groups of people without taking anti-panic drugs. These drugs have side effects and I cannot take them daily or even several times a week. Consequently, my best hope of regaining paying work is to study skills that will enable me to work freelance from home. I have quite strong writing skills, have completed 5 years of study at a tertiary level, and believe with some preliminary rehabilitation I would be able to undertake an online writing course to equip me for my future working life.
From late 2008 I fought a two-year battle with my Case Managers (CGU) to access this retraining. This battle ended in my succumbing to another serious mental breakdown. I redeveloped a gambling addiction from which I had remained free for over 5 years. I became homeless as I could no longer afford to pay market rent of $360 a week from my pension. I began smoking again too after two years of abstinance.
I have been struggling with these conditions for the past two years. I have registered as homeless and will be in public housing when they find some for me, a process that could take years. In the meantime I have gradually learned to deal with my homelessness as best I can. I have friends who will allow me to stay whenever I’m without something more suitable. I prefer house sitting, as this means I have the accomodation to myself, a factor which suits my impairments. Unfortunately most house sitting is only available during the standard holiday periods, so I am spending far more time living with others than is good for my mental stability.
I am currently planning a process of rehabilitation that addresses my gambling addiction, and looking for online courses that could provide effective “refreshment” of my skills to prepare me to enter a Post Graduate writing course. I have asked my new Claims Management at Xchanging to assist me with retraining. Actually I’ve only asked them so far to give me a description of the pathways that will lead me to supported retraining.
Well here is their reply:-
“In relation to any request for Vocational Training, [the injured worker] will need to show that she has a capacity to undertake such training and that given her transient lifestyle that if we fund such training that she will be able to complete it.”
So is that it then? Having made me homeless, having caused serious exacerbation of my psychiatric injuries, the Workover now wants to use those conditions to deny me access to training. The language they use in constructing this further blockage to my ambitions is demeaning and insulting. “Transient lifestyle” suggests that I had a choice in becoming homeless. I did not.
By late 2008 I had plans to become an independent working person again. The money I received for common law compensation would only last two years, but I was prepared for that. I wanted to use those two years to get my retraining done and establish a working future. I had developed a good level of physical fitness through walking daily, attending water aerobics three times a week, and tai chi class once a week all at my own cost. I had given up smoking successfully. I was mentally and emotionally prepared, having practised breathing/meditation daily, and my self esteem, concentration and focus were much improved. My gambling addiction had been in remission for years. I was practising my writing regularly, and actually wrote over 60,000 words for a book about bullying as a cultural component of Australian society. The collapse of my mental health brought all that effort to a sudden end.
The Workover, through Claims Management’s cynical, abusive and persistent refusal of my right to retraining, smashed my hope, my mental health and my physical fitness, and effectively laid waste to four more years of my life. Now they want to do it all again, but this time I’m ready for them.
Many so called Vocational Assessors you are referred to by workcover insurance companies, will use nothing more than computer testing for “suitable jobs”! This does not take into effect that many injured patients have a multiple of things the matter with them above their main diagnosis and may be socially and otherwise handicapped. A supreme court case in Canada made it clear handicap or impairment had to include ALL problems. There is no evidence counselling someone on a job possibility makes it happen in disabled cases. Canada Disability pension criteria had to be modified to include not just suitable jobs but AVAILABLE and giving substantive gainful employment – measures ignored by workcover insurance companies who will terminate cases for any excuse. I call this the “you could be a funeral director” scam.