Welfare Review Hits Disability Payments
Sunday, 29th June 2014 at 1:03 pm
The Federal Government’s interim review into Australia’s welfare system has recommended cuts to the Disability Support Pension – where only people with a permanent disability could receive the payment.
The Report has also questioned the age at which young people can receive income support in their own right.
The Government’s review into welfare payments has been headed by former Mission Australia CEO Patrick McClure.
The review called A New System for Better Employment and Social Outcomes recommends all other disability pension recipients be moved to a new, temporary “working age entitlement” scheme. However the Government said while it was an interim report it would not estimate how many people with disability would be affected.
|Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews at launch of the Interim Welfare System Review (ABC24).|
Minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews said the interim review of Australia’s welfare system had put forward a simplified payments structure with four basic payment types, among other potential reforms.
“Australia’s current welfare system is incredibly unwieldy, with around 20 payments and 55 supplements which is complex to administer and difficult for individuals to access and understand,” Andrews said.
“Currently we have a birdsnest of a system and this review is the first phase towards becoming a more sustainable and efficient architecture.
“With an ageing population, we also need a system that is sustainable and affordable in the years ahead and one that encourages people who are capable of working to work, while supporting those when they need it most.
“The welfare system isn’t just about payments—the system should help people build the capacity they need to participate economically and socially, to the extent they are able.
“The report looked at working age payments and services and considered whether they support people who have the capacity to work to get a job."
The review identified four main pillars of reform:
- simpler and sustainable income support system;
- strengthening individual and family capability;
- engaging with employers;
- building community capacity.
“We will now have further discussions with the community and stakeholders ahead of a final report to be completed later this year," Minister Andrews said.
“My concern is that for too long, many people get on to a DSP and then government tends to forget about them."
When asked how many people on Disability Support Pensions would be affected by the changes the Minister said it was too early in the review process to say.
He said the number of people allowed onto this payment had grown in an ad hoc manner over many years if not decades.
“We are not looking to make anyone worse off but we are looking to a system that is efficient and sustainable,” he said.
|Patrick McClure at the Launch of the Interim Welfare System Review.|
Report author Patrick McClure at the launch said that Australia's social support system was too complicated but while there was a need for adequate support there was a need for "pathways to education and employment".
In the Report, the Reference Group said it considered there should be a simpler architecture for the income support system consisting of the following payment types: a tiered working age payment; a Disability Support Pension; an Age Pension and a child payment.
It recommends a simpler architecture should include a working age payment.
“Within the working age payment, different tiers of payment could take account of individual circumstances, such as partial capacity to work, parental responsibilities or limitations on availability for work because of caring," it said.
“People with disability who have current or future capacity to work could be assisted through the tiered working age payment to better reflect different work capacities.
"Requirements, services and other supports could be individualised to each recipient’s circumstances, including current or future capacity to work."
The Review said the Disability Support Pension would be reserved only for people with a permanent impairment and no capacity to work.
It pointed to simplifying payments to families, a simpler child payment structure could bring together Family Tax Benefit Part A, Youth Allowance, ABSTUDY and other payments for dependent children and young people.
It said people of Age Pension age should generally receive the Age Pension, subject to eligibility.
“There should be fewer supplements with more clearly defined purposes for specific additional costs, for example, supplements to contribute to the costs of participation and rents," it said."
The Not for Profit sector will be given six weeks to comment on the first phase of the Review. This includes a call for public submissions and round tables in capital cities.
The submission process is open until Friday, August 8.
Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen told ABC's Insiders program that he was sick of opening the Sunday paper every week and seeing Kevin Andrews “demonising disabled people”.
"Labor supports measures to help people on the Disability Support Pension back into work where it's possible and appropriate,” he said.
“What we don't support is cutting people's benefits on disability support in some brutal and blunt effort to force them back into inappropriate jobs."
President of People with Disability Australia, Craig Wallace, tweeted that his organisation would be taking its time to absorb the review properly and make a response. (@craigwtweets)
The following Interim Report documents are available at www.dss.gov.au/welfarereform