Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Supporting people with disability into work

Joint Media Release with:

  • Senator Jan McLucas, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers

A report released today on disability support pensioners highlights the need for the Australian Government’s important reforms to the Disability Support Pension (DSP) to get more people into the workforce.

The report shows that there are continuing barriers to work for people with disability and more needs to be done to help them to participate in the workforce.

The report, Characteristics of Disability Support Pension Recipients 2010, profiles the 792,581 receiving the DSP at 30 June 2010.

The DSP provides essential income support for Australians who are unable to work to fully support themselves. That is why the Government has delivered historic pension increases, now worth an extra $128 a fortnight for single pensioners on the maximum rate, to ensure that people who are severely or profoundly disabled get the support they need for a decent quality of life.

While the disability support pension will continues to be an important part of our social safety net, the Government believes we can do better than a lifetime spent on income support for Australians who have some capacity to work.

Over the last three Budgets, the Government has initiated a series of reforms that are fundamentally overhauling key aspects of the disability support pension. These reforms began on 1 July 2010, after the period of this report.

More thorough assessments of claims for the disability pension, other than in cases which are clear cut, began in July 2010. 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 within Centrelink has also been established to give DSP assessors independent advice on medical issues in DSP assessments.

Since these reforms began on 1 July 2010, the rate at which disability pension claims are granted fell from 63.3% to 56.8% at 6 May 2011 – a drop of more than 6 percentage points.

Disability Support Pension grants before and after 1 July 2010 chart

The 2011-12 Budget will continue our reforms to the DSP with the introduction of important new requirements to encourage greater participation and engagement in support services.

We are fast-tracking new rules announced in the 2010-11 Budget that will require most new DSP applicants to provide evidence that they have been unable to obtain employment through an open employment service or vocational rehabilitation. This will now begin on 3 September this year.

Around 18,000 initial claims for DSP each year are expected to be rejected, with the claimant being referred to an employment service to help build their capacity to work. People with severe disability or illness who are clearly unable to work will receive financial support more quickly.

To ensure the DSP is better targeted towards individuals with genuine needs, new Impairment Tables will be implemented from 1 January 2012.

These changes will ensure the impairment tables are in line with contemporary medical and rehabilitation practices and modern expectations about functional ability. They will ensure a person’s ability is looked at when assessing their eligibility for the DSP, not just their disability.

The review of the tables is being guided by medical experts and representatives of disability organisations.

In addition, from 1 July 2012 we are introducing a range of reforms to encourage greater participation by DSP recipients.

These reforms announced in the 2011-12 Budget will:

  • Introduce new participation requirements for disability support pensioners under the age of 35 with some capacity to work;
  • Provide more generous rules for existing disability pensioners to encourage them to work more hours; and
  • Support employers to take on more disability pensioners through new financial incentives.

We want to see people participate in community life and in the workplace where they have the capacity to do so.

Work provides purpose and dignity and a greater sense of achievement and pride. Many people with disability are great contributors, and many more want to do more.

We want to ensure we get the system right so that it encourages and rewards effort, and doesn’t penalise initiative.

To view the report visit