Calls for urgent pension review

Disability advocates and researchers are calling for urgent reforms to the Disability Support Pension (DSP), with a new report released on Tuesday showing people with a disability spend $107 a week more on basic living costs, such as transport and healthcare, than Australians without disability.

The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) report into the standard of living for people with disability is one of three new studies by Australian universities that was launched at Parliament House on Tuesday to highlight the economic and health impacts of disability.

The Australian Federation of Disability Organisation (AFDO) and its partners are concerned that successive Governments have made meeting the eligibility threshold so burdensome and difficult that many people with disability, who may have been eligible in the past, can no longer access the DSP.

More than 200,000 Australians with a disability are now receiving the lower Newstart allowance and tens of thousands of people are not receiving any support at all.

The NATSEM report found that

  • The income gap between households with disability and households without is $107 a week for a household with an adult member with disability.
  • To close the gap in household income to provide the same standard of living, families already receiving the DSP would need $183 more per week on average, and $343 for 200,000 people with disability receiving Newstart.
  • If the Government spent an additional $3.1 billion a year on the DSP, then the gap in the standard of living of households already on the DSP would nearly halve.

Report author Professor Laurie Brown said income support provided through the DSP is inadequate to provide these families with the same standard of living as households that are similar in every other way, but who have no family member with disability.

“The gaps in standards of living are much higher for households where a family member with disability is on Newstart,” Prof. Brown said.

AFDO chief executive Ross Joyce said the financial cost of living with disability and the declining access to the DSP is causing significant economic, social, psychological stress and unnecessary hardship for people with disability.

“There are a lot of additional costs of living with disability including accessible housing, transport and access to health services. These costs are particularly acute for people with disability living in regional and remote areas of Australia,” Mr Joyce said.

“Over the past two decades, both parties put barriers in place for people with disability to access the DSP to make budgetary savings. We need to wind back those changes because they haven’t resulted in more people with disability working. Instead, they’ve resigned more people with disability to poverty and financial insecurity and caused stress and heartache.

“We know that the Australian community supports the Disability Support Pension. The conversation that is now needed is about the adequacy of the DSP and how it is applied, so that people with disability are treated with fairness and dignity.”

Do you receive the DSP? Is the money you receive adequate to cover your costs? Should the DSP rate be higher to cover the higher expenses involved?

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