Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Tele gets it wrong on Disability Support Pension

The fact is that as a result of this Government’s comprehensive reforms to the Disability Support Pension (DSP) for the first time since 2006 the number of people on the DSP has actually fallen, and we are seeing more people getting into work than before.

Unlike the Howard Government’s failed Welfare to Work policy that couldn’t stem the growth in the DSP population, this Government has put in place comprehensive reforms that are ensuring the DSP is well targeted and that we are helping people into work.

The result is that for the first time since October 2006, the number of DSP recipients has dropped – down from 831,908 in December 2011 to 824,082 in February 2013.

We have removed the cap the Howard Government had on access to Disability Employment Services, so more people with disability can access tailored support to get into work.

Since we uncapped access to Disability Employment Services more than 136,000 participants with a disability have been placed in employment.

We have also made sure that people have to try to find work before going on the DSP.

People applying for the DSP (other than people who have a severe disability or illness) are now required to show that they have tried to find work or tried to get skills for work before they can be eligible for the DSP.

Previously, people could apply for the DSP without having to demonstrate that they have looked for work first.

We have also introduced new participation requirements for DSP recipients under age 35 with some capacity to work.

These people are required to attend regular participation interviews with Centrelink to develop participation plans, help build their capacity and overcome barriers to work.

And we are allowing people to try work – since 1 July last year, people with disability are able to work up to 30 hours a week and still receive the DSP, subject to the income test.

The Howard Government, under their failed Welfare to Work policy, took away the DSP from people with disability who wanted to work more than 15 hours a week.

Our reforms have also ensured the DSP is well targeted. These reforms include:

  • 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.
  • More thorough assessments of claims for DSP since July 2010, other than in cases which are clear cut. Eligibility for DSP is now assessed by experienced Senior Job Capacity Assessors using new, clearer guidelines to assess DSP claimants’ work capacity.
  • A new Health Professional Advice Unit established within Centrelink to give DSP assessors independent advice on medical issues in DSP assessments.

The Daily Telegraph was given these facts and chose not to use them.

The fact is this Government wants to see people who have some capacity to work supported to do so. Work provides independence, purpose and dignity and a sense of achievement.

We can do better than a lifetime spent on income support for Australians who have some capacity to work.