Media releases

Urgent review needed to close cost of living gap and broaden eligibility for Disability Support Pension (DSP)

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

The NATSEM report into the standard of living for people with disability is one of three new studies by Australian Universities that will be launched at Parliament House today to highlight the economic and health impacts of disability, particularly for Indigenous Australians.

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 disability now receiving the lower Newstart allowance and tens of thousands of people are not receving any support at all.

The NATSEM report[1] 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.
  • Two of every five Indigenous households relying on the DSP as their source of income ran out of money for basic living expenses in the last 12 months.
  • 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,” Professor Brown said.

AFDO CEO, 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 support 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.”

Professor Alex Collie, author of the Monash University report on the Health of People on the DSP and Newstart[2] believes that there is now good evidence to suggest that this stress is having a negative impact on the health of people with disability.

“We found that disability pension recipients had two and a half times the rate of hospital admission compared to wage earners. People getting Newstart were 3 times more likely to report at least 10 health conditions,” Professor Collie said.

“There is a strong link between these sorts of health outcomes and living on very low incomes. One probable contributor to the poor health in these groups is financial stress.”

Associate Professor Karen Soldactic and Michelle Fitts from the Western Sydney said their report[3], covering persons living with a disability and service providers across Australia, showed that the DSP application process is extremely onerous.

“It creates a severe economic impost on persons with disability, illness and/chronic condition due to their extensive requirements for medical evidence to verify the permanency of their disability and/or condition.

“For Indigenous Australians living in regional and remote regions, it can be unfeasible to meet the medical evidence requirements as well as access treatments because of the lack of readily available specialists and medical services.”

AFDO and and the report authors are calling on the government to:

  1. Initiate an urgent review into the adequacy of the Disabilty Support Pension.
  2. Implement a three-month assessment timeframe for the eligibility process.
  3. Ensure that the eligibility process is fair, reasonable, accessible, equitable and not unduly burdensome on people with disability and their support networks.
  4. Ensure the eligibility process for the DSP does not generate further financial hardship and economic insecurity.
  5. Remove the criteria for people to be fully treated and stabilised from the eligibility criteria to acknowledge fluctuating conditions and/or illnesses, rapid onset of disease and accidents and injury.
  6. Cease the Program of Support; it is acting as a barrier to people with disability successfully claiming the DSP.
  7. Increase the security of transition from the DSP into employment by reinstating the initial threshold of work hours from 15 – 30 hours per week to enable a person with a disability to participate in the labour market without significant loss of access to necessary supports.
  8. Provide DSP information in a range of accessible formats, such as; braille, Auslan, large print, plain language, easy English, etc.

Media contact: Jenny Stokes 0478 504 280; Ross Joyce on 0402 842 040

About the reports

  1. Inequalities in standards of living: Evidence for improved income support for people with disability
  • AFDO commissioned NATSEM Report
  • By Jinjing Li, Hai Anh La, Laurie Brown, Riyana Miranti and Yogi Vidyattama
  • This report focuses on the social and economic consequences of broadening the eligibility or raising the rate of the DSP
  1. The Health of Disability Support Pension and Newstart Allowance Recipient
  • Monash University, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine
  • By Professor Alex Collie, Mr Luke Sheehan, Dr Ashley McAllister
  • This report focuses on the health status and health service use of Australians receiving the DSP or Newstart Allowance
  1. At what cost?’ Indigenous Australians’ experiences of applying for disability income support (Disability Support Pension)
  • Western Sydney University
  • By Karen Soldatic, ARC DECRA & Senior Research Fellow & Michelle Fitts, Research Associate
  • This report examines the impact to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the community applying for the DSP

The Reports are available via this link.

[1] Inequalities in Standards of Living: Evidence for Improved Income Support for People with Disability. NATSEM, Institute    for Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra.

[2]The Health of Disability Support Pension and Newstart Allowance Recipients, Monash University

[3] ‘At what cost?’Indigenous Australians’ experiences of applying for disability income support (Disability Support Pension) Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University