McClure Review a Cause for Carers’ Concern
9 July 2014 at 5:53 pm
The McClure Welfare Review’s interim report has revealed plans that could put more pressure on people with disability and carers, Australian Greens spokesperson on family and community services and disabilities Senator Rachel Siewert writes.
The interim report of the McClure Welfare Review is the prelude to the Government making a number of potentially significant changes to our social security system, and if the Minister for Social Services’ comments are anything to go by, there will be significant change for people with disability and carers.
Maybe it is just coincidence that certain media outlets were running demonising stories about people with disabilities the day the Government released the Interim McClure report but I don't think so. The Government's comments flame the campaign demonising people receiving the DSP as undeserving, to try and garner public support for policies that dump people off this payment and into lower streams of income support in order to save money.
Moving people judged to have a non permanent or partial disability off DSP looks set to create a two tiered system, where some people with disability get a much lower working age payment. There will be the deserving people with disability and the undeserving.
We’ve seen this moves like this before from successive Governments. The previous Labor Government made it tougher for people to access the DSP pushing them onto Newstart to prove they have tried to find work for 18 months, and this Federal Government have legislation in the Senate that could see a number of people with disability aged under 35 receiving DSP ‘reassessed’ and moved to this lower payment, an effective cut of $160 per week.
During the most recent round of Senate Estimates, the outgoing Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes voiced concern that this policy constituted a ‘punishment' for people with disability.
Estimates was also told that the highest level of complaints the Human Rights Commission receive relate to disabilities, and 45 per cent of those complaints relate to employment, pointing to the significant employment problems facing people with disability.
For the Government to turn around now and look to create a two-tiered system of payment for people with disability risks exposing many people, including those with a partial disability, mental health issues or an episodic illness to poverty and disadvantage. They would lower peoples' quality of life and create even more barriers to employment.
The linking of DSP, NDIS and carers in the McClure Review is another cause for concern.
This is an issue that I received emails about within hours of the McClure Review being released, as people expressed their concerns that the government would seek to draw the NDIS into their social services reform agenda.
The NDIS and the DSP are separate, and need to remain so.
The NDIS is designed to provide support, care and choice for people with disability. It does not, and could not replace a system of income support, or mitigate any impacts of cuts to income support.
Any move in this direction risks a return to the bad old days of people deciding whether to spend their money on care and support or on their daily living expenses.
The review also ties the role of carers into the discussion, echoing previous calls from the Government that could see work requirements and mutual obligations placed on some people.
The NDIS will not significantly reduce the demand for carers in our community. With an ageing population, the demand is set to increase over the coming years. Efforts to reduce the capacity of carers, by imposing some form of participation requirements, ignores the massive contribution they make to our community and economy each year.
Carers Australia have reported that carers provide more than $40 billion in unpaid care annually, which would otherwise need to be met by our health, aged care and community services sector. Recent ABS data shows that around half of all primary carers have attributed feelings such as depression, worry and stress to their work.
What the Government is effectively saying that that on top of these stresses and challenges, more pressure will be placed on carers.
This approach is at odds with the changes we need to improve our social security system and social safety net.
Rather than making things tougher for carers and for people with disability, we need to be providing better support, job services and adequate income support payments.
Weakening these supports means weakening the NDIS and affecting the quality of life of people across the community.
It is not fair or equitable to introduce reforms that affect vulnerable people the hardest, and to undermine those who make a large personal sacrifice by caring for others.
About the Author: Greens Senator Rachel Siewert was first elected to the Senate representing West Australia at the 2004 election and commenced her term in July 2005. She was re-elected for a second term at the 2010 Federal election. Siewert is the Australian Greens Whip, chairs the Senate Community Affairs References Committee and is a member of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australian.