Major Crackdown on Disability Support Pension
1 August 2011 at 5:31 pm
With new Impairment Tables estimated to drastically reduce the number of people receiving the Disability Support Pension, the Government is being urged to ensure people are not just pushed onto lower paying allowances.
New Impairment Tables released by the Federal Government are set to dramatically reduce the number of Australians receiving the Disability Support Pension, following the first review of the tables since 1993.
According to the ABC, a Centrelink test of the new tables found that four out of every 10 people who qualified for the Disability Support Pension earlier this year would not qualify under the new regime which is set to come into effect in 2012.
At a doorstop press conference in Melbourne, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin said the government has had a number of significant medical and rehabilitation experts, disability service providers, and disability advocates working on the Impairment Tables over the last two years.
Macklin says the tables will start to be used for assessment of people that are eligible from the 1st of January, 2011 – not for people that are currently on the disability pension.
There are around 800,000 people on the Disability Support Pension, which Macklin says is a lot more than there are on the dole. According to AAP, the number of people receiving the DSP has risen by almost 100,000 over the last 2 years.
Australian Council of Social Services CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie says the Government must ensure that any changes to the rules do not just result in pushing more people onto lower paying allowances – and unless they are increased Australia faces the very real prospect of more people falling into poverty.
Dr Goldie says any changes to the DSP must include an increase in unemployment benefits, especially Newstart and Sole Parenting allowances.
Dr Goldie says while ACOSS is supportive of the Government’s attempt to give more people living on the DSP an opportunity to be involved in paid work, the Government will need to provide more incentives for employers to provide real job opportunities to people with various degrees of disabilities.
Dr Goldie says people on Newstart receive $128 per week less than those on DSP or Aged Pension, that's just $34 a day for all their living expenses like rent, food, transport and bills, which simply is not enough to live on.
She says unless there is a dramatic improvement in the job prospects of people with disabilities, all the tightening of access to DSP will achieve is to leave people with disabilities $128 per week poorer.
Goldie says there are already 100,000 people with disabilities languishing on Newstart Allowance, which is $238pw for a single adult because they cannot find a job. Employers, including the Government, will need to ensure they do their part, tackling discrimination and providing the right supports.
Jenny Macklin says the new Impairment Tables – which had last been updated in 1993 – will assess people's ability to work and to demonstrate what they can do, not what they can't do.
Macklin says it is estimated the new Impairment Tables will save the government around $35 million a year, starting from 2012.