Senate Inquiry into Disability Pension

The experiences of people trying to access the Disability Support Pension are set to be reviewed as part of a Senate investigation into the eligibility and payment review processes.

The inquiry, announced on Thursday, is expected to examine the purpose of the Disability Support Pension (DSP), eligibility criteria and payment review processes, as well as related employment initiatives – including the Centrelink “Support Programme”.

It follows a series of reforms aimed at cutting social spending and increasing labor market participation over the past 15 years, which critics say have created loopholes in the social security system.

Figures from the Department of Social Services show that in December 752,006 people were on DSP. These numbers have remained relatively stable over the past decade, peaking at just over 800,000 in 2012.

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said it was hoped the Senate committee’s findings would inform a review of the DSP’s impairment tables, which is expected to come into effect next year, and ensure people with disabilities receive appropriate financial assistance. .

The federal government currently uses a points-based system of impairment tables to determine whether a person applying for DSP meets the “allowable impairment threshold.”

To qualify for the pension, people must accumulate 20 or more points in the impairment tables and be considered unable to work more than 15 hours a week for the next two years.

Those who accumulate 20 points but are not assessed as having a specific severe impairment must also participate in an 18-month “support programme” within three years.

Meanwhile, DSP candidates must participate in mutual obligations to demonstrate that they are unemployable and live on the JobSeeker payment of $620.80 per fortnight, compared to the fortnightly pension of $868.30. That’s almost $10,000 less over the 18 months.

But findings on the cost of disability in Australia last year showed that people with disabilities need to increase their adult equivalent disposable income by 50% to reach the same standard of living as people without disabilities.

Siewert said many people with disabilities found it difficult to complete the support program and instead received the JobSeeker payment with partial capacity for work, which meant they had a disability or illness that Centrelink said prevented them from working. work full time.

Government figures show that in December 384,763 people received a JobSeeker payment with partial work capacity, up 70,000 people from the previous 12 months.

Siewert said forcing people to log into federal government employment service systems, including JobActive and the Employment Services for People with Disabilities system, also seemed to increasingly prevent people living with disabilities. to find meaningful and stable work.

“Labour market participation rates for people with disabilities have remained stable over the past 20 years despite employment services for people with disabilities receiving significant levels of funding,” she said.

“This is an issue of great concern to people with disabilities.”

The senate will begin asking for submissions on the inquiry in the coming weeks, with hearings to be announced later this year and its report due in November.

“We hope to hear from people with disabilities and people who have tried to get DSP or been rejected,” she said.

“We want to hear about people’s lived experience and how they went through the support program.

“Does it meet the needs of people with disabilities?

“And how many are living off another payment because they couldn’t get DSP? I’m sure every politician here has received a letter or a constituent has raised questions about DSP membership.

“It caused people a lot of distress.”

InDaily contacted the Department of Social Services for comment.

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Norman D. Briggs