200,000 Australians with disability struggling to get by on Newstart

200,000 Australians with a disability struggling to get by on Newstart: report

The 200,000 Australians with a disability living on Newstart payments – after being kicked off the higher level of welfare payment through the Coalition government’s reforms – are struggling to make ends meet, a new report says.

Australian households with an adult member who has a disability spend an average $107 a week more on basics such as transport and healthcare, the report by the University of Canberrra’s National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling said.

To close the gap in household income to provide the same standard of living as households without disability, families receiving the disability support pension would need $183 more per week on average, the researchers found.

Halving this gap would cost the government an extra $3.1 billion a year, it found.

For the 200,000 people with a disability receiving Newstart, the report – to be released on Tuesday – said an additional $343 per week was needed to close the standard of living gap.

The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations will call on Tuesday for an “urgent review into the adequacy of the disability support pension” and changes to ensure the eligibility process is “fair, reasonable, accessible, equitable and not unduly burdensome”.

“A higher proportion of household budgets is typically spent on medical and health care by households with members with disability,” the report said.

It listed medications, first aid supplies, GP and specialist medical visits and therapeutic equipment as among the additional costs.

Two of every five Indigenous households relying on the disability support pension as their source of income ran out of money for basic living expenses in the last 12 months, the report said.

The government currently spends $16.7 billion a year on the disability support pension, which is paid to 715,000 Australian households.

Singles on the full disability pension get $926.20 a fortnight including the energy supplement. For those in a couple, it is $698.10 for each person on the pension.

Newstart is $555.70 a fortnight for singles without children or $501.70 each for couples. Singles with a dependent or child get $601.10.

The royal commission examining the abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability had its first public hearing in Brisbane on Monday.

Chair Ronald Sackville said the three-year inquiry would methodically examine how Australia is living up to UN conventions safeguarding the human rights of people living with a disability, and look at why past inquiries had not brought about the improvements advocates had long demanded.

Follow this link to media article (written by Dana McCauley, The Age)

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