Back in April last year, the week after Erik left, Dave and I had a few things we needed to do. We saw a lawyer for advice through the free legal service. He told us there was basically nothing we could do. Of course, with Dave being Erik's carer there had been plenty we could do, it was just that either we didn't mention Dave being Erik's carer - I honestly can't remember if we did, though I suspect we would have - or the lawyer simply wasn't aware of the fact that as Erik's carer, Dave could compel Erik to return home because he was living outside care which was not okay under the law (because he obviously needed a carer).
We also had to notify Centrelink that Erik was no longer living at home. When I did that, I suggested he would be transferring Family Assistance payments to Sam (and honestly we were wondering if that was her motive for encouraging Erik to move in with them). We were told that Erik could not apply for any kind of alternative payment or arrangement without our knowledge, and that to be eligible for any such change he would have to meet one of the following criteria:
1. That he could not live at home because home was located too far from the place of his education, or where he was seeking employment.
2. That he could not live at home because he was a physical danger to his family.
3. That he could not live at home because his family was unable to provide a secure housing arrangement for him.
4. That he could not live at home because he was being abused there.
We would have to agree to one of these. Obviously, none of the above applies, and the final of these further excluded disagreement between the child and guardian disputing regular household rules (you know, such as not being allowed to steal or lie or enroll in classes he'd previously failed to attend or do assignments for over and over again).
Anyway, he did not apply for any payment from Centrelink in the past year and a half - or at least we had not been contacted.
A few weeks ago Dave or Luey (I can't remember which), had seen Erik and Aaron - his school mentor, and the teacher who swore up and down that Erik was doing just fine at school and that Compass was not correctly reflecting his attendance - had been seen going into a Centrelink office. We speculated he would be applying for some sort of payment. We didn't think anymore of it, because well, he's eighteen now.
Yesterday, a letter arrived from Centrelink - or rather a social worker working for Centrelink. The letter informed us that Erik was applying for Youth Allowance on the grounds he is unable to live at home and the social worker was asking Dave to ring and confirm that Erik was, indeed, unable to live at home.
Obviously, Dave can't confirm this because none of the criteria apply.
We don't know what Erik is thinking. Has he told the social worker that we abused him? Would he lie like that to get money? Does he not realise that that means the social worker would have to look at whether or not the other boys are safe in our care? I mean, there is no case to answer and we are not concerned that the boys would really be taken from us, but seriously is he willing to imply as much?
Then the question arises. Why is he seeking the payment now, and not before now. Given that Sam has withdrawn herself from Erik's Compass account, does this move indicate that she has given him a period in which to find himself other accommodations? Now that he's an adult and he and Jess are no longer together, and he's been playing up at school - and perhaps she's realised that he might have hoodwinked her last year?
Perhaps she's asking him to pay board - which would be the preferable option here because there is no way he could support himself on two hundred something a week. Perhaps he's planning to work a couple of days a week and move into share accommodation - though with who is questionable as none of his friends are eighteen yet.
We still can't believe he's claiming he cannot live at home...