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Reforms to disability pension falling short


Reforms to disability pension falling short

The number of people working while receiving the Disability Support Pension has fallen by 1270 in 12 months, despite new policies aimed at increasing workforce participation among people with disabilities.

As the Abbott government considers changes to the welfare payments regime, new analysis shows that in May, 8.4 per cent of DSP recipients also received income from employment, down from 8.5 per cent a year earlier.

On July 1 last year, the work threshold for DSP recipients was lifted from 15 to 30 hours a week without their payments being affected.

Maree O'Halloran of the National Welfare Rights Network said that in May there were 822,391 DSP recipients, of whom 68,973 also received income from working. A year earlier, there were 70,243 recipients with outside income, from a total of 827,512 people receiving the pension. In June 2007, 9.9 per cent of those on the DSP also reported earnings.

"We need clearer rules and more supportive government action so that people with disabilities are not left stranded economically and socially," Ms O'Halloran said.

She said the increase in the work threshold was designed as an incentive for people to work for longer periods if that was possible for them in their circumstances. People under 35 were also required to negotiate a "participation plan" with Centrelink.

"Our casework experience is that there is little awareness of these existing incentives," she said. Ms O'Halloran said the general unemployment benefit, Newstart Allowance, was so inadequate that people with disabilities knew their medication, aids and accommodation would be at risk if they were moved on to that payment.

"The Newstart Allowance is $163 per week less than the pension and many people with disabilities are struggling to survive on that poverty payment," she said.

The Australian Law Reform Commission earlier this year looked at the barriers to workforce participation faced by older Australians. It urged an overhaul of commonwealth laws that were hindering employment.

One of the areas examined was the DSP and the need to have rules that helped people participate in paid work at least on a part-time basis.

"We ask the government to consider the report of the Australian Law Reform Commission and to provide greater transparency about the circumstances that can trigger a review of a person's Disability Support Pension," Ms O'Halloran said.

"We regularly hear from people anxious that any history of work or earnings will potentially trigger a review, at some point in the future".

References and further information

This article was originally produced by The Australian.


To read the rest of the article visit The Australian website


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