Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Liberal lies don’t help people with disability find work

Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey’s inaccurate and ignorant assertion this morning that the Government is planning cuts to the Disability Support Pension is simply wrong.

The Government has been very clear that we will not cut the pension. In fact, we have made historic increases to the pension.

The only person that is planning cuts to the pension today is Joe Hockey’s boss – Tony Abbott – who according to newspaper reports is proposing a two tiered pension system.

The Gillard Government has made reforming the Disability Support Pension and helping people into work a priority. We know work provides independence, purpose and dignity and a sense of achievement – and our reforms are showing strong signs of success.

Tony Abbott’s latest contribution is a half-baked, recycled policy that leaves the door open to savage cuts.

Nothing the Liberals have said will help anyone with disability into work.

And Joe Hockey admitted today that anything could happen under an Abbott Government, telling The Bolt Report, “I’m not proposing to go into the details of anything in that regard, because we have no set plans.”

Labor has put in place comprehensive reforms to ensure the Disability Support Pension is well targeted, and to help people into work.

We have delivered the first overhaul of the DSP Impairment tables in more than a decade – ensuring the tables reflect modern medical practice and are focused on what people can do, rather than what they can’t do.

We have implemented more thorough assessments of claims for DSP since July 2010. Eligibility for DSP is now assessed by experienced Senior Job Capacity Assessors using new, clearer guidelines to assess DSP claimants’ work capacity.

We have introduced new participation requirements for DSP recipients under age 35 with some capacity to work. Thousands of younger DSP recipients are required to attend regular participation interviews with Centrelink to develop participation plans, help build their capacity and overcome barriers to work.

We have delivered more generous rules to allow all DSP recipients to work up to 30 hours a week and continue to receive a part-pension, subject to income and assets testing. Around 4000 DSP recipients worked extra hours in the first six months after we introduced the new rule in July 2012.

These changes are making a difference.

The Gillard Government’s reforms have delivered the first drop in the number of DSP recipients since October 2006, and the most sustained drop in the Disability Support Pension population in 30 years.

Our reforms have also led to a drop of more than 20 percentage points in the grant rate for new people coming onto the Disability Support Pension.

The success of our reforms are in stark contrast to the policies of the Howard Government, of which Mr Abbott was a senior Cabinet Minister.

The former Coalition Government’s failed Welfare to Work policies did nothing to stem the growth of the Disability Support Pension.

They also put a cap on Disability Employment Services, which effectively locked out people with disability from accessing tailored support to get into work.

Since Labor uncapped access to Disability Employment Services, more than 158,000 people with a disability have been placed in employment.

Our reforms have struck the right balance between maintaining the Disability Support Pension as a critical social safety net for those who are unable to work, and ensuring those who have some capacity to work are doing so.