The gap in the standard of living for disabled Australians on the disability support pension and Newstart is widening, with the Morrison government under pressure to urgently review the scheme.
Those with a mild disability would need an extra $87 per week at least to have the same standard of living as other Australians, while those with a profound or severe disability required $173 per week more.
But the gap in standard of living became even more stark for people with disabilities who were deemed to have some capacity to work and placed on Newstart.
Those families needed an extra $343 per week to close the gulf in living standards.
“The gaps in standards of living are much higher for households where a family member with disability is on Newstart,” lead researcher Professor Laurie Brown said.
And while about one in four Australian households felt their standard of living had declined in the past two years, it climbed to over a third for households on the disability pension, and over half for those on Newstart.
About one in 10 people (11.5 per cent) on the disability pension went without meals due to a shortage of money – more than four times the rate of households who were not on the pension (2.7 per cent).
One in 10 (10.7 per cent) asked for help from community or welfare organisations due to the money shortage – again, about four times the rate of other households (2.6 per cent).
Disability pensioners also asked for money from friends and relatives at double the rate of other households (14.3 per cent versus 7 per cent).
But the figures were even worse for people living on Newstart.
About one in seven people on Newstart went without meals (14.4 per cent), one in six sought help from welfare groups (16.6 per cent) while almost one in three asked for financial help from friends or relatives (29.1 per cent).
The number of Australians claiming the disability support pension has plummeted, with acceptance rates more than halving in the last eight years.
The pool of disability pensioners shrunk from 824,470 in 2014 to 750,045 in 2018.
In 2010-11, 69 per cent of claims were successful. Now, only 29.8 per cent of applicants are approved.
This is despite more than two million Australians claiming to have a mild to profound disability.
Successive governments have tightened the eligibility criteria for the pension, which has pushed more people onto Newstart – paid at a lower rate.
In 2014, there were 153,582 people in the partial capacity to work group receiving Newstart payments – 21.1 per cent of all recipients.
By December 2018, that had grown to nearly 200,000 people – or 28 per cent of Newstart recipients.
Australian Federation of Disability Organisations chief executive Ross Joyce said declining access to the disability pension was causing unnecessary hardship for people with a disability.
“Over the past two decades both parties put barriers in place for people with disability to access the [the pension] to make budgetary savings,” Mr Joyce said.
Mr Joyce said the government must urgently review the adequacy of the pension, and reevaluate the eligibility criteria.
“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,” he said.
Follow this link to media article (by Katie Burgess, The Canberra Times)