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Major Crackdown on Disability Support Pension

1 August 2011 at 5:31 pm
Staff Reporter
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.

Staff Reporter | 1 August 2011 at 5:31 pm


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.

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  • John Quintner says:

    There are, in my opinion, going to be fundamental problems with the implementation of the new “impairment” Tables and the accompanying legislation:

    1. Ability to “work” does not equate to being able to obtain employment. What about “voluntary” work? Will this be considered in the assessment.

    2. Despite valiant attempts of their doctors to diagnose them, many people in pain will not have a discernible “lesion” or disease to explain their ongoing pain and disability. At the moment, they are labeled as suffering from such conditions as “Fibromyalgia,” Myofascial Pain Syndrome,” and “Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome”. According to the new Impairment Tables, they will be denied a Pension even when severely disabled by their condition.

    3. Medical treatment outcomes are notoriously poor for many of these people. Will they have to undergo “more of the same” treatment in order to satisfy CentreLink’s criteria?

    4. Evidently “pain” is not deemed to be a measurable (objective) impairment. By contrast psychiatric conditions can be squeezed into this definition, although the means by which they are to be assessed is obviously based upon (self-reported) disability.

    5. What will happen to those already receiving the DSP when they come up for review? Will they be reassessed in exactly the same way as new applicants are to be assessed?

    6. How will already overloaded Pain Management Services cope with the added patient burden? Will there be a further blow out in waiting times?

    7. Who will perform the complex medical assessments, given that Australia’s medical workforce is already stretched to the limit!

    • Bernadette says:

      It will be interesting to read any responses to the points raised by John Quintner. This new legislation sounds like a new attempt by the Gillard govenrnment to pander to the shock jocks. It will just generate another expensive industry where thousands of chronic pain sufferers will be obliged to front up to medical professionals to prove and reprove their case diverting already scarce resources from pain clinics. How much real consultation was done with pain specialists around the country, to assess to what extent it is realistic for a chronic pain sufferer to be expected to front up to paid work with all its accompanying obligations? Or did the bean counters devise this proposal with no reference at all to the science? It may well result in forcing another group into poverty just to garner a few more votes from the right. Smells a lot like another half baked ‘pink bats’ scheme.

      • John Quintner says:

        Thanks for your comment Bernadette.

        I am afraid that this "major crackdown" could be part of a much wider campaign to disenfranchise many sufferers of chronic pain from access to systems of personal injury compensation and income support.

        With some alarm I have noted the increasing adoption by them of the American Medical Association Guides to the Assessment of Permanent Impairment, 5th edition, from which they have removed the Chapter on Pain. 

        The Tables of Impairment contained within these Guides are largely consensus based and have been shown to lack inter-rater reliability. Nonetheless, they are being promoted as evidence-based! Just how reliable is consensus-based evidence? 

        Strangely, psychiatric conditions have been re-framed as "impairments" although the Table of Assessment to be adopted by CentreLink relies upon subjective evidence to obtain ratings of "impairment" (that are supposed to be objectively determined).

        Why people in chronic pain cannot be assessed under a similar Table of Impairment is a burning question that needs to be answered. 

  • David Buchanan says:

    Well said John!

    Well – anyone able to answer his questions? That is without fundamentally incurring human rights violations and the wrecking the two sacred oaths of medicine?

  • Lorelei Makepeace Weir says:

    How thoughtless to anounce these changes during the National Pain Week launch.
    I’ve become a Speaker for Chronic Pain Australias “Give Silent Pain a Voice”initiative.
    I am a Volunteer Consumer Advisor for my local area health service and will apply for membership of my medicare local. I recommend that you consider this also.
    I will not be silent about the impacts of chronic pain on my life and the lives of those who have loved and supported me on my 26 year journey with chronic pain, and its attendant depressive disorders. I’m lucky to have had an understanding GP.
    I have, synchronously, recently registered with a disability employment agency in order to find a paid job.
    Where are the jobs for us who want them? We’re in pain, not weak, silly or sick.
    Certainly not lacking courage. Many of us remain active in our home communities and are valued for this participation.
    My journey has meant I’ve dealt with Fibromyalgia, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, Anaphylaxis,due to adverse pharmaceutical reaction, Major Depressive Disorder, and whilst I’m beyond grateful for my benefit and the Government Housing wherein I live, I can’t afford the Allied Health treatments which would considerably improve my quality of life, nor the supplementary medicines which improve my wellbeing.
    I consider that I am extremely fortunate in being creative and wise in buying and eating my foodstuffs from my local Farmers Market.
    Although I have been a career volunteer for many of the past 25 years, I can no longer afford to run my car, pay for parking, equip myself and then, show up cheerfully to support paid workers.
    I have decided to become an advocate for the disadvantaged.
    Perhaps, if all 800,000 of us who are on the DSP, also registered for paid work the spin off might give pause for the thought to the geniuses who have instigated this latest impost.
    An impairment scale, I thought we were working towards an era of empowerment for the disabled? Can do and all that. Lori

  • John Quintner says:

    Hi Lori

    You will be pleased to know that PainAustralia is taking up the issue and will be making a submission in about a week.

    In my humble opinion, those who formulated the new Tables of "Impairment" failed to consider the possible (and I feel inevitable) consequences of their actions. Perhaps I am being too charitable and/or naive!

    You and many others will not be amongst those who will thank "the number of significant medical and rehabilitation experts" for their work over the last 2 years on the Impairment Tables. 

  • long term pain sufferer says:

    I have been on a job related insurance scheme for several years. This will run out some time next year. It is not workers comp but a form of disability insurance, not very much but I can scrape by on it. I lived in fear about what I would do when it runs out but my doctor always assured me I would get a disability support pension. I do small jobs when I can but pain and continual muscle and joint problems prevent me from getting a regular job. I dont think I would be very employable and know that frequent absences due to my condition would irritate any employer. So what will happen to me now, I think I fit into the fibromyalgia/myofascial pain section as they still haven’t a more exact diagnosis. My doctor thinks it is autoimmune and that one day they will work out exactly which condition it is. In the meantime I wonder what will happen next year. Will the government accept that I have had this condition for years and therefore qualify or not?

  • Anonymous says:

    Having looked at the new tables I would have assessed someone who got 10 points as being unable to work. It also leaves out conditions such as migraine which can be extremely debilitating if they occur frequently. And unexplained pain which can impact on both work attendance and productivity. And what about people diagnosed with terminal cancer where it’s hard to hold down a job if one is always going off for treatment and appointments even if palliative care is managing to keep symptoms at bay. Imagine rocking up to an interview explaining one has to attend weekly chemotherapy and has been given 6 months to 2 years to live. Hardly humane to the individual involved and the employer would probably want someone more reliable.

  • Anonymous says:

    The new tables are to knock out arthritis sufferers. This is seriously dibilitating and incurable. Pain is the result. I have been listed with PAIN ONLY, althought the condition that causes it is ARTHRITIC CONDITIONS, multiple. Degerative which means it will get worse. I am realizing each word, is careful and precise. Change tables TO knock out the main bulk of claimants being ARTHRITIS and PAIN sufferers. They save money. Who cares about the repercussions of NEWSTART, and being sent to work 30hours plus a week, which cause the deterioration in the first place. Now because they have pushed people to WORK, and ruin their health. They are now blocking their DISABILITY CLAIM with deliberate premeditated actions. I have also found, I am rejected. Refused to issue medical certificates, yet im fine to work. Amazing. My last JCA listed my condition as Temporary. Instant rejection. They can say anything. Anything but ok you disability claim. Newstart WORK WORK WORK, and take STRONGER PAIN KILLERS, which cause further health problems DONT COMPLAIN or list PAIN. THANKS for all the taxes I have contributed whilst working, to be defrauded of rights when I am unable. Put to the gutter like a piece of rubbish

  • Anonymous says:

    My fears have been realized. Those who cannot find employment because of chronic pain conditions will be most unlikely to meet the requirement of having a medically diagnosable condition that is acceptable to CentreLink assessors. Furthermore, the new Tables of so-called Impairment will be used when those in receipt of a DSP are reviewed. A period of chaos will ensue and many will be seriously disadvantaged, both financially and psychologically. I do hope I am wrong.

  • gobsmacked says:

    Australia and its hard nosed attitude make me sick, penalise and abuse the most vulnerable typical of a bully….. there is no compassion in this country anymore and no-one with any brains to run the country properly, education has been dumbed down big time so the masses don’t even know how to queston any thing anymore to find the truth, and they are so unfit and overweight from being told to eat all the wrong things ( Govt ticked etc), but the public do and seem to believe whatever the govt say…… apathy plus,plus,plus so on, and so on ,and so on…… A very immature stunted country, penalise those with it all, the greedy ones, all the managers at hospitals who are given cars and have there petrol paid for, why i am the nurse on the road I don’t get one to take home why do they on a big wage to boot ( and this is just one area of greed and narcissism… an over inflated opinion of themselves and the jobs that they do)….. THIS COUNTRY CATERS TO THE RICH GETTING RICHER, leaving those in real need to flounder killing off their soul’s and then finally their bodies, AUSTRALIA you should be ashamed!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Anonymous says:

    My self and several other disabled pensioners I know are going through this process now. I have been on the pension for five years and due to cronic back pain twenty four hours a day, it is not possible for me to work.
    What centrelink is doing is changing our benifit from disabled to newstart, but then telling us we don’t have to look for work. By their own actions they are admitting we can’t work, but by changing our benifits we now get considerably less benifits. My own benifit will change from $300 per fortnight to about $50 per fortnight. I still have the same injuries and cannot work but now I will be expected to live without support. I will now have to rely even more on my spouse to pay the bills and feed me.
    The natzi party did this sort of thing years ago, punishing the weak and the disabled to create a super race.
    Shame on this country and all of you for alowing this sort of treatment to people who have worked hard all thier lives and now need and deserve help in their life.

  • Anonymous says:

    The new tables to qualify for disability require a person to have 20 points in at least 1 category of impairment..trouble is people who suffer from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue and other pain syndromes cannot possibly qualify as their symptoms cover a large spectrum but do not add up to 20 points in one area, combined in every area of the body affected they would make up way more than 20 points.. Pain is not counted or measured nor is chronic fatigue given much weight. You are told you don’t have to work just get your health on track but you have to manage on newstart really good advice to help get your health on track… more stress and anxiety to add to the depression you already suffer from!!
    They could at least offer housing in govt. housing instead of expecting you to still afford private rent with minimal rent assistance!

  • Anonymous says:

    I have been waiting for the past 7 weeks to find out if I am eligible for the DSP. I have Fibromyalgia and serve depression and anxiety. The pain I suffer with each day is incredible.

    I have a copy of the tables and found it odd that pain was not considered in the tables. Interesting if I was an alcoholic or on drugs I would get the DSP!!! However, I applied for the DSP in April 2012, just with a Dr’s report. I was told after 7 weeks that I was ineligible, not enough information I was told. So why wasn’t I told that Fibromyalgia would not be considered when compared to the tables?

    I went back to my Dr’s was referred to a rheumatologist who confidently diagnosed Fibromyalgia, I am also under a psychiatrist for the serve depression and anxiety. When I went for my work capacity interview, I was very angry that the interviewer did not have the information about Fibromyalgia with him. Now I know why!!! Tomorrow will the the end of the 7 weeks, my suspicion is that I will be refused the DSP, my depression levels are such that a timely end would be my only relief. This is the government discriminating against people with chronic pain of any kind. Yet if I was a drug user or an alcoholic I would fit the criteria.

    • liz says:

      I would be very interested to know how you went the second time around..I was reading your comment and it sounded like me as I too applied in april and was rejected…I also have the horrible fibro also

  • Anonymous says:

    I suffer from fibromyalgia and can’t do much without reaching for pain killers to get me through the day, at work or at home. Cutting a very long story short – three years ago I had to resign from a good job with a local Council thanks to my rheumatologist who spoke with my manager at the time (the manager asked for my permission to speak to my rheumo, a mistake on my part granting it), advising there’s no reason I shouldn’t be fine to work a normal working week. Despite initially being placed in a part time role working half a day three days a week after working full time for many years, it was a long process but I was at the end of my tether by this stage and had to go through some personally uncomfortable disclosure of information to my employer with reasons to justify why I should be placed in a part time position. If I didn’t do this my family would have suffered as a result of an earlier resignation and no wage to pay bills. After that conversation my great hours got changed to three full days which I couldn’t manage and had to take more pain killers to cope but they made me drowsy and there was no way I could remain alert or fully verbally clear, my employer wasn’t willing to revert my half day hours and HR told me there wasn’t anything more they could do for me and shrugged their shoulders. I didn’t have the fight in me to go through legal avenues and as I’d already been to my Union who didn’t offer any support at all and a complete waste of part of my wages for several years!
    I tried to apply for the DSP or even a part pension but didn’t qualify because my husband earned $1500 over the couple threshold. Can’t touch my Superannuation until I’m old and frail to use it, what to do then? So over the next two years I tried gaining employment but wasn’t successful due to my honesty in disclosing on the employment application form that I had fibromyalgia, only one employer advised they were concerned about my condition and on those grounds they were hesitant to hire me despite the fact I was their best applicant, this was a kick to the stomach and also the turning point in my honesty. Over the last year I have had many opportunities and was hired on several occasions but alas couldn’t up hold the hours and finally decided it was not fair on the employer or me to work a full day, so I only stuck to trying to find the hours I could manage. Currently I only work 8 hours a week and I find it to be plenty but the pay is very low and not enough to cover the weekly food bill. To achieve where I am at this stage in my life – firstly I am lucky that my husband works full time and I am now employed but we have had to make sacrifices along the way to make ends meet with the most prominent being selling our home and moving to a smaller mortgage!
    There are many issues and consequences for the not so well off financially or physically who are not being taken seriously by the government who’s business it seems is to cut back, scrimp and take back money from those who need it for beaurocrats’ yearly pay rises, pension plans and free travel for life funds, etc. Heaven help us all if we end up going even further down the American health model, it’ll be a case of get your tins ready to beg on street corners!

  • Lynda says:

    In 2009 I underwent spinal fusion at three level,and lamenctomy. I was compensated sort of. I returned to work thankfully my employer would have me back, lighter duties, much lighter. Three years on enough, the pain is dementing. Not only do I have to live with pain, but also my right leg due to the spinal nerve being impeded for so long has balance and no feeling. I don’t use a stick to walk, not going there yet. I can’t sit for more than half an hour, I don’t sleep, unless I’m bombed of my face. I can’t sit in a car for longer than about twenty minutes, oh but I can drive a manual car , which centrelink thinks makes me fine. Refused a disability benefit, because I didn’t whinge enough.

  • cant afford medicines says:

    when classed as total and permanently disabled, and then get no help from commonwealth government for any assistance as my wife earns $69000 a year and we are paying $1300 dollars a fornight on mortgage and have 1 child still going to school and paying thousnads of dollars a year on medications, and have no access to get a part time job through disablilty services and being declined by charities such as salvation army/mission australia/red cross/nova employment and various others as i do not get centrelink payments. and spending money that i got from retiring on ill health trying to live and now down to missing medications as we cant afford it. it will cost many lives of australians and many suicides, i am uninsurable so that is not the answer for me but many people will see it the only way out to support the family. politicians need to see what is happening before its too late and look after our own australians in need.

  • Anon says:

    I personally suffer from fibromyalgia. A condition which causes employment issues. With the trouble I have had from needing time off and working for a company with little compassion. Centerlink has put me through CRS however even they seem unable to actually do more then provide moral support. As I fear loosing my job due to my fibro alongside a lack of support from the government for my condition I am honistly wondering where do I go from here? If pain, passing out, extream fatigue, brain fog and restless leg arn’t enough for them to even consider you in need of a bit of extra help, I don’t know what is.
    Invisable illness and desease are permanent and debilitating within everyday life. Our govement needs a right kick up the koit if it can’t realise this.

  • Anonymous says:

    I am 18 years old and I have fibromyalgia. I am barely making ends meet while studying part-time at university. I am seriously considering what will happen if I fail uni and am therefore kicked out of uni, because I fail my assessments whenever I have flare-ups… which is too often and for too long to not impact on my overall grades. I don’t know what I’ll do if I fail… according to everything I’m reading, I won’t be able to get disability support.

    I have never been able to get a job. When I’m upfront and say I have fibromyalgia in my resume, I don’t even get to the interview stage of a job application. When I don’t mention it and I do a trial period for a job, it affects my performance and other people who also tried out and performed better than me get the job instead. I can’t really get a job in anything except physical labour because I don’t have a qualification yet (I’ve had FMS since I was 16 and I was bedridden for a year) and anyone with fibromyalgia knows physical labour is not even an option. Newstart allowance wouldn’t pay for the healthcare I desperately need for my FMS and slight scoliosis (physiotherapy, occupational therapy, holistic nutrition). So on Newstart I would get less money, less healthcare, less fulfilment and meaning in life – in short, less hope. And people think that FMS is a manifestation of depression when depression is CLEARLY a result of having to live with fibromyalgia! Luckily, I am not currently depressed but I used to be while I was bedridden and I will likely become so again if I am kicked out of university then denied disability pension and put on Newstart instead.

    I am waiting for the day when they finally find out the causes and cures for FMS… but since they only invest $1.50 per year per person with FMS into research, I’m not holding my breath.

  • Kat says:

    I have Fibromyalgia/Chronic fatigue and chronic pain as well as a major depressive/anxiety disorder, I am not young anymore and I was knocked back for the DSP. But like others was put on Newstart, told I didn’t have to look for work just get healthy for 12 mths then at review was told they felt I could work 15hrs/week and sent me to a disability employment service which I have to front up to 2 weekly as well as jump through the Centrelink hoops every two weeks submitting forms on how much I – I am unemployed of course I earned money!! Employers have 70 or more candidates to choose from of course they are going to take on an oldie with health problems…esp for only a few hrs a week and unreliable due to ill health.. I had to give up my last employment due to excessive time off work.. As someone else stated- at least they could put you in gov. housing instead of having to pay private rent. I am left with just over $100 per fortnight to live on, put fuel in the car (to look for work and go to drs. appts. and job interviews) pay the phone bills elec. bills etc. etc. Not food though cos who needs to eat, right… WRONG…
    If they want to save money kick the ones off DSP who are consistently working 25-30 hrs per week and put the ones on who really can’t hold down a job due to fatigue, pain etc.

  • TrueBlue says:

    What crack down ?
    you mean the one where the Australian government targets the easy fish, the people with a real need for help getting shafted while the well to do and un-needy get on Disability and unemployment easy.
    A couple stories to make you wild:
    1. A married couple I know where the wife just received her Full Disability pension as she has a problem where she cant keep food down and require a feeding tube from time to time along with medication, Now normally I would say she was entitled to centrelink help, BUT they have Eight yes eight registered and insured cars and not just any cars(imported American cars) a regoed and insured bike, a house and investment property and a business WTF how did she get it ? I do not know but definiatley does not need it.(wealthy rorters).
    2. A young fellow I know 20yrs old is on a Disability support pension, his mum is on full disability because she cant stop eating (super fatty), his brother is on Full disability for so called schizophrenia that doesn’t stop him partying or working for cash, but best of all the father is a fly in fly out minner on a take home of around 9K a month (WTF).
    3.Another young fellow I know is basically live with his girl (but they tell centrelink they are separated) he gets the full dole and her the full single parents pension and on top of that the kids were taken off her and she took Docs to court and won em back along with a nice 25k per year for the next 5 years as compensation for takeing the kids (which in my opinion was warranted). Plus they manage to go to bali every year all funded by the tax payer.
    I myself am employed full time, work my guts out to be as poor as the tooth fairy living in a house full off meth heads.

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