HomeCentrelink – Services AustraliaData shows long wait for disability support pension

Data shows long wait for disability support pension

Some of Australia’s most vulnerable people are being made to go months without income as data reveals processing times for the disability support pension (DSP) blew out to more than 80 days in the final months of 2023.

Data provided by the Department of Social Services (DSS) to Senate estimates last month shows the average wait time for a DSP claim to be approved by Centrelink was 82.2 days between September and December last year, Guardian Australia is reporting.

Processing times also varied by location, with applications in some local government areas taking more than 200 days to be processed.

Interestingly, those areas are all located in fairly remote parts of Western Australia and include Yalgoo, where the average wait time was 289 days; Wyalkatchem, WA, where it was 205; and Kent, WA, where it was 226.

The jump in wait times for the DSP is an alarming acceleration of a trend that began back in 2021-22, when the average wait time was 33 days. This increased to 40 in 2021-22, then 46 in 2022-23, making the recent increase unprecedented.

Who gets the DSP?

The current DSP claim backlog has extra significance because the DSP is a payment for people who are unable to work due to a physical, mental or intellectual disability, meaning the DSP is often their only source of income with no real prospects of finding work.

The application process is more complicated than for other payments and involves medical assessments and extensive documentation to prove you are unable to work. Many people report finding the application process arduous and confusing.

Hank Jongen, spokesperson for Services Australia, the DSS agency that oversees Centrelink, told The Guardian the DSP is a “complex payment to process” and apologised to anyone waiting “longer than they should be”.

Each DSP claim requires careful consideration of the provided medical evidence by Services Australia’s health professionals, who are trained to assess the evidence against the program rules. This can take time,” he said.

“People aren’t alone in this process. We have specialist staff and social workers who can help people with more complex circumstances and who need extra assistance, especially to connect to other support services.”

Why are the delays getting longer?

The Senate estimates data comes on the back of claims earlier in the year that Centrelink was taking an average of 72 days to process Age Pension claims and was even refusing to answer calls in some cases.

In February, minister for social services Bill Shorten admitted wait times were increasing due to staff shortages at Centrelink and its parent agency, Services Australia.

He promised $228 million to hire an additional 3000 staff to deal with the increased workload, based on the numbers the government was seeing towards the end of last year.

“We made a decision in the last quarter of last year to employ 3000 extra people,” he told ABC Radio Perth.

“We started recruiting them in November, December. By mid-January, the beginning of February, we’ve now hired 3000 people.”

As the recently published data deals with the final quarter of 2023, we will have to wait until the end of this quarter to assess whether the 3000 new staff have had the desired effect.

Have you tried lodging a claim for the DSP recently? Have you had trouble getting through to Centrelink on the phone? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Should the Age Pension be indexed more often?

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyerhttps://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/bradlockyer/
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.


  1. I lodged a new claim for the aged pension on 20th November 2023 am 70 years of age and was sent a confirmation email that stated it will be considered between the 13th to 20th February 2024 still waiting and been no communication since went into local Services Australia office end of February only to be told due to staff shortages claims are taking a lot longer and as Canberra only place to be able to answer this question sitting on a phone for hours waiting to be answered didn’t enthuse me again treated just like another number. I wonder how long it takes Centrelink to send out a letter demanding the return of an overpayment would bet that a lot quicker than paying out money!

    • As Old Aged Pensioners we are treated as 2nd class citizens and looked upon as a burden on the tax system. The LNP really craped on pensioners over a 13 year period starting with the mad monk Abbott. Will take a very long time to get the service to an acceptable level if at all possible with the complexity of the OAP.
      It really needs to be revamped. If not it will never be at an acceptable level of service.
      Only consolation you have is that you’ll receive back payment from date of application. Until then you’re just a self funded retiree sad to say.

  2. I understand that there would need to be a lot more checks done by many doctors and professionals to support claims. Unlike the OAP.
    The hardest and more time consuming claims would be for disabilities that you can’t see especially mental health.
    The DSP and the NDIS is a more complex process with many issues from fraudulent claims and scams to weed out. We already know how rife the fraud is with the NDIS. This only makes it harder for those that are genuine.

- Our Partners -


- Advertisment -


- Advertisment -

Log In

Forgot password?

Don't have an account? Register

Forgot password?

Enter your account data and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Your password reset link appears to be invalid or expired.

Log in

Privacy Policy

Add to Collection

No Collections

Here you'll find all collections you've created before.