Australia is a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Under articles 9 and 28 of these instruments respectively, the Australian Government is obliged to ensure that all persons with disabilities have access to social security, social protection and an adequate standard of living.

Australia’s social security system is crucial to the realisation of this right, particularly through the payment of Disability Support Pension to people who cannot realize economic security through paid work participation.

Access to this form of income support is especially crucial due to the inaccessibility of meaningful, secure and appropriately remunerated employment for many persons with disabilities in Australia

Even more fundamentally, the provision of adequate, accessible and disability-specific social security is necessary for the reduction and alleviation of poverty and promotion of the social inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in Australia.[1]

The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) is concerned that changes to the Disability Support Pension and wider social security system in recent decades have led to the exclusion of many persons with disabilities from access to essential social security.

Key Areas Where Change is Needed


  1. Reinstate the process where Treating Doctors were requested to respond to relevant questions, rather than a blanket request for medical files
  2. Ensure that the view of a Government Contracted Doctor is not treated as determinative without the delegate looking at other material including giving real weight to treating doctor’s reports
  3. Remove the wording “Treated and Stabilised” from the Eligibility Requirements
  4. Remove the Program of Support for the DSP Eligibility Process
  5. Implement a set of Publicly Available Standards regarding the time it takes to process a claim for the DSP and for the time it takes to complete a review
  6. Review the Content of the Impairment Tables so that they become a tool to assist eligibility rather than acting as a barrier to eligibility
  7. Reinstate regular publicly available reporting on all aspects of the DSP including claims and reviews



Patrick McGee, National Manager – Policy, Advocacy & Research

Australian Federation of Disability Organisations


[1]Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No 19 (2008): The Right to Social Security, 39thsess, UN Doc E/C.12/GC/19 (4 February 2008) para 3; United Nations General Assembly, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, 70thsess, UN Doc A/70/297 (7 August 2015) para 7.