Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Strengthening Australia’s support system

Joint Media Release with:

  • Senator Jan McLucas, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers

Legislation introduced to Parliament today will strengthen Australia’s support system to make it better targeted and fairer.

Improving disability advocacy services

The Government is introducing a stronger quality assurance system for disability advocacy services to ensure people with disabilities receive the best possible advocacy support.

The current quality assurance system has not changed since 1997, and the need for improved quality assurance for disability advocacy services has been highlighted in a number of reviews.

This legislation introduces mechanisms independent from government to assess the compliance of disability advocacy services against Disability Advocacy Standards.

Development of a robust, quality assured disability advocacy sector will help meet the objectives of the National Disability Strategy, and will also help meet Australia’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The third-party certification quality assurance system this legislation introduces has been successfully in place for disability employment services since 2002. It involves people with disability at all levels in the system, including as members of audit teams.

The new quality assurance system, developed in consultation with the sector, has been successfully trialled and independently evaluated in consultation with the disability advocacy services sector. The evaluation recommended implementation of the system.

The Final Report of the Evaluation of the Trial of the National Disability Advocacy Program Quality Assurance System is now available on the FaHCSIA website.

Introducing new Impairment Tables for Disability Support Pension

The Government is currently working to update the Impairment Tables as part of its reforms to the Disability Support Pension to make it simpler, fairer and sustainable for those who need it.

It is essential that the level of someone’s impairment is assessed using the most up to date medical information.

The current Impairment Tables used in Disability Support Pension assessments were last comprehensively reviewed in 1993 and are no longer consistent with contemporary medical and rehabilitation practices.

An Advisory Committee of medical, allied health and rehabilitation experts, disability advocates, mental health advocates and relevant Government agencies was established in 2010 to provide advice on updating the Impairment Tables.

This legislation allows the Impairment Tables to be updated by a legislative instrument from 1 January 2012. This allows them to be updated regularly in response to developments in medical or rehabilitation practice.

The draft legislative instrument that contains the revised Impairment Tables, based on the Advisory Committee’s report, will be released shortly for public comment.

These revised tables have been developed following extensive consultation, and ongoing consultation will occur as they are implemented.

Making access to payments for new migrants equitable

This Bill also aligns the rules for accessing Special Benefit for Provisional Partner Visa holders with other newly arrived migrants.

From 1 January 2012, Provisional Partner Visa Holders will need to demonstrate they have experienced a substantial change of circumstances beyond their control in addition to financial hardship in order to access Special Benefit.

Under current policy, Provisional Partner Visa holders are able to access Special Benefit from when they are granted the visa and are in Australia if they can demonstrate they are suffering from financial hardship only.

This is not consistent with other newly arrived migrants subject to the Newly Arrived Residence Waiting Period, who need to demonstrate both financial hardship and change in circumstance outside of their control in order to access Special Benefit.

Bereavement allowance extended for Parenting Payment recipients

The legislation will also enable Parenting Payment recipients to access Bereavement Allowance following the death of a partner from 1 January 2012.

This will provide additional financial assistance to a surviving partner at a difficult time.