“You need to go on the waitlist for the public health system, and with cancer, you don’t want to wait”

This is my story

Two major life events led to a cascade of financial difficulties for Helen and Craig. 

About a decade ago, Craig took early retirement by accessing a defined super annuity to help his single parent son with daily child minding and general support so his son could continue working 

As time went on his grandchild wasn’t able to engage in mainstream schooling so Craig took on home schooling. The annuity provided a regular income but it was significantly less than what I’been earning while I was employed” Craig said. 

Then, four years ago, Helen was diagnosed with breast cancer. The family had private health cover, but the premiums and excesses still meant they were out of pocket, significantly.  

Helen related that Private Health Cover never reimburses anywhere near what it should so you are always out of pocket and the cost of health insurance has gone up phenomenally. 

“You can go on the waitlist for the public health system but that can be a long wait, and with cancer, you don’t want to wait. 

“I had two lots of surgery, chemo, and a lot of time off work and I ran out of paid leave and had to personally fund any extra time I had off.” 

This meant they ended up just digging deeper into their credit card‘to just get by’. They were getting deeper and deeper into credit card debt. 

Last year, we found employment because we knew that was the only way that we were going to get back on track again, then COVID hit and we lost our jobs.”  

Things have begun to improve for Helen and Craig. Helen is four years into remission with no evidence of further cancer and their family situation has improved. Their grandchild now attends a school that can support him properly, which means Craig no longer needs to provide homeschooling.  

“Our son and daughter in law are both frontline responders on shift work and during this timebeing there to help with the kids is fairly important now.”  

As Helen and Craig tried to work with their creditors they were referred to Way Forward  by BankWest.

Way Forward Hardship Advocate Kelly quickly contacted them to begin the process and see if they met Way Forward’s criteria for assistance with their service. 

With Kelly’s support, professionalism and empathy, we never felt judged. We can’t praise her enough in her dealings with us. 

“We were able to determine a realistic and achievable budget that would allow them to pay off their creditors and still meet daily living expenses.

“We had done budgets before but that was based around the minimum repayments on loans and including everything else after those repayments, which was almost the reverse of what we’ve done with Way Forward. Instead, we worked out our expenses and then what we could afford to pay off on our loans. Our current arrangement feels more robust.  

“We now have multiple accounts for different expenses, and we also put aside money in our budget for things like rego, maintenance on our vehicle and caravan. And we have a little savings buffer there and we are hoping to build on it.  

“The stress is still there but it is far less. We’re only a couple of months into making these payments but we can see that what we have set up has worked and we can see that it will obviously work into the future. 

“If someone meets Way Forward’s criteria, and there are obviously criteria around these circumstances, grab it with both hands, because the organisation, in particular, Kelly, has been fantastic in helping us sort this out and dealing with our creditors on our behalf.   

“We would advise other people to not be afraid to reach out. As hard as it is, and believe me, that was a very difficult first conversation to have, it is something people should do.”  

Struggling to pay for the essentials such as food and rent and want to know more about your options? Our emergency funding page lists some of the available free emergency services and funding if you live in Australia and find yourself in financial difficulty.

By Rachel Ryan

Rachel is a policy and communications specialist with over a decade of experience working in government, education and not-for-profit organisations. She is grateful for the opportunity to work alongside Way Forward’s clients to assist them in sharing their story on their terms, in a way that is empowering and uplifting.