Media Release by The Hon Bill Shorten MP

Helping more disabled Australians into work

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Brendan O'Connor MP, Minister for Employment Participation
  • Senator The Hon Joe Ludwig, Minister for Human Services

The Rudd Government today announced that one of the most significant barriers for people receiving a Disability Support Pension who wish to find employment will be removed.

From September 2008, DSP recipients who wish to find employment will undertake a simpler assessment process or a ‘pre-employment referral’ which will only collect information to determine the most appropriate employment services for the individual.

Currently, DSP recipients who want to look for work automatically have their benefit reviewed which can result in a reduction of their payments.

There are currently more than 700,000 DSP recipients who are not required to undertake any activity.

Minister for Employment Participation, Brendan O’Connor, said the potential loss of benefits was one of the single biggest disincentives for DSP recipients who of their own accord want to find work.

“People with disabilities who want to work should be encouraged and supported to join in the workforce as much as they are able,” Mr O’Connor said.

“However the Government has consistently heard from people who receive a Disability Support Pension, disability advocates and employment and Job Capacity Assessment providers while there are people who wish to work they are afraid of losing access to their benefits.

“This is why the Government is acting to remove this major obstacle to employment for people on DSP.

“The Government recognises as well as financial benefits of employment there are significant social benefits of more people taking an active role in their communities.”

Minister for Human Services, Senator Joe Ludwig said the simpler ‘pre-employment referral’ Job Capacity Assessment would only collect information required for the job seeker to determine the most appropriate service.

“The simpler referral will allow the Job Capacity Assessor to identify which employment service providers are best suited to assist someone with disability back into the workforce without conducting a review of the person’s DSP entitlement,” Senator Ludwig said.

“It is common sense to help recipients of DSP who voluntarily want to find work. This change means people can get help without losing their DSP.”

Today’s announcement is part of a broader Government strategy to encourage more people with disability and/or mental illness to participate in employment.

Mr O’Connor and Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services, Bill Shorten, will hand down a National Mental Health and Disability Employment Strategy before the end of the year.

“This strategy will outline clear and practical steps the Government can put in place to overcome the barriers which make it harder for people with disability and mental illness to gain and keep work,” Mr Shorten said.

“The Rudd Government wants to encourage more people who are disabled or have a mental illness to be actively employed.”

The Government this week ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, making Australia one of the first Western countries to ratify the Convention.

Australia joins 29 other countries around the world in a move that aims to promote a global community in which all people with a disability are equal and active citizens.