21 February 2018
Reports about lower spending on the Disability Support Pension (DSP) hide the increasing number of people on unemployment payments who have a limited capacity to work.
These people have little hope of finding full time work, not least because there is only one job available for every eight applicants.
The savage drop in successful applications for the DSP has meant that large numbers of people with a disability are instead being forced onto the Newstart Allowance, receiving $170 per week less.
Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS says people are forced onto Newstart despite being known as disadvantaged in the jobseeker market.
“Almost one third of people on Newstart Allowance have a partial capacity to work,” says Dr Goldie.
“A partial capacity means a person, because of illness or disability, is defined by Centrelink as only able to work between 0 and 30 hours per week. Yet they are forced onto Newstart Allowance, a lower rate of payment than DSP, and must compete with other jobseekers who have full capacity to work.
“Over several years, governments have tightened DSP eligibility requirements. These policies increase rates of poverty in Australia.
“Successful claims have dropped from 63 per cent in 2010 to just 25 per cent in 2015/16 – not 40 per cent as suggested in media reports.
“Many people denied DSP would be forced to accept Newstart. They often have a poor chance of getting paid work and have to cover the cost of basic essentials including food, housing, transport and medical costs on just $274 per week (not including rent assistance), which is $174 per week lower than the DSP and more than $100 per week below the poverty line.
“This is obviously devastating for people who are living with a disability, often acquired in the workplace, and who are struggling to find a job.”
People can appeal a decision to deny them DSP, but they often need assistance from community legal centres like Social Security Rights centres.
The National Social Security Rights Network reviewed 22 of their centres’ cases where someone had been denied DSP and appealed the decision. Of these, 17 were granted DSP on appeal (77%).
“How many people are out there who have been denied DSP but are living with the wrong decision and haven’t appealed it?” asks Dr Goldie.
“Our social security system should ensure that people get the right support they are entitled to.
“We must urgently increase the rate of unemployment payment so that it does not leave people destitute.
“We must ensure people who need the DSP receive it. And we must do better in terms of employing people with a disability.”