On a day just like any other in Melbourne’s outer suburbs, 21-year-old Jess sits alone on the front step of her family home, blowing bubbles to pass the time.
Wednesday night’s episode of Struggle Street introduced us to Jess, and her mum and full-time carer Michelle.
While most women in their early 20s are studying at uni, travelling, catching up with friends or starting their first ‘real’ job, Jess is mostly housebound by Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type 6, a condition that affects the body’s connective tissue. Currently, there is no cure.
As Jess put it, “All my collagen is faulty. Without collagen, you fall apart”.
Three years ago, single mum Michelle was forced to quit her job to take care of Jess. Her Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type 6, as well as autism and a mild mental disability mean she requires around-the-clock care.
Both receive benefits from the government – disability and carer’s pension. But this only covers so much. On a day-to-day level, things like a wheelchair van and hoist would make Jess and Michelle’s lives considerably easier.
Their story, however, is not uncommon. In 2016, statistics showed three million Australians were living under the national poverty line of $426.30 a week.