Government’s Plan to Cut Disability Support Pension Backfires
26 October 2018 at 3:14 pm
The federal government is ditching controversial plans to review the eligibility of 90,000 people on the Disability Support Pension after only a tiny fraction of recipients were found not to qualify for the payment.
The DSP medical reviews were expected to save the government $61.2 million over five years by cancelling 2,300 people’s benefits each year and moving 1,800 people onto the lower Newstart payment.
But on Thursday during Senate Estimates, the Department of Social Services revealed the 2016-17 budget policy had been scrapped after only 2 per cent of those reviewed to date were found to be ineligible – just 555 people from 28,784 finalised reviews.
“In 2016 the Coalition announced a further 90,000 medical reviews of existing recipients over three years, today we have heard at #Estimates that process has been cancelled.
— Rachel Siewert (@SenatorSiewert) October 25, 2018
Therese Sands, joint-CEO of People with Disability Australia, said she was pleased the policy – which planned for 30,000 reviews a year for three years – would be dropped as it caused considerable anguish to the disability community.
“Many people with disability have contacted us over the past two years in significant distress about being reviewed for eligibility for the Disability Support Pension, and potentially losing this income support payment,” Sands told Pro Bono News.
“Our advocates have spent time supporting and assisting them through the long process of review.”
In February Pro Bono News reported a sharp decline in people accessing the DSP due to the Gillard government tightening eligibility requirements in 2012.
New DSP participants declined from a peak of almost 89,000 in 2009-10 to around 32,000 in 2016-17.
During Thursday’s estimates hearing it was revealed only 29.9 per cent of 103,005 DSP claims in 2017-18 were successful, down from a 59.6 per cent success rate in 2010-11.
Sands said the government needed to stop targeting people with disability on income support, and make sure the safety net supported people instead of hurting them.
“We also want a review of the impairment tables that mean that many people with disability are trying to survive on the much lower Newstart payment, that doesn’t take into account the extra costs of disability and/or illness,” she said.
A single person on Newstart receives $550 a fortnight compared with $916 a fortnight for a single person on the DSP.
It’s unconscionable that so many people have been locked off the DSP & pushed onto Newstart — but no one should be expected to subsist on $38 per day, $160 per week below the poverty line.#RaiseTheRate.https://t.co/ciKBIkProG
— Anti-Poverty Network SA (@AntiPovertyN_SA) October 25, 2018
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert told Pro Bono News she feared more people with disability would be stuck on Newstart if they couldn’t find work.
She said the government needed to review the number of people with disability on Newstart and re-assess whether they should really be on the DSP.
“I’m deeply concerned that there are people with disability struggling to survive on Newstart and locked out of the labour market because they face discrimination over their disability,” Siewert said.
“We need to make sure they are getting a level of payment that properly supports them and doesn’t condemn them into poverty.”