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Education and Employment

Disability Rights groups urge government to act on DSP Senate Inquiry Report

Man in electric wheelchair moving along the city street
Photo: Dreamstime

Disability Rights Groups urge the Australian government to take responsibility for taking action on addressing the level of need and distress that people with disabilities experience while trying to survive on income support.

Australia is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Article 28 stipulates clearly that people with disability have a right to an adequate standard of living and social
protection.

Disability Rights Groups welcome the Committee’s recommendations to:

  • Remove mutual obligations for people during the process of their claims and making the program of support voluntary, “abandoning punitive compliance measures” and making employment services more effective.
  • Increase funding for disability advocacy, community legal services and First Nations organisations to support DSP claimants in their claims process and to improve linkages between Services Australia and First Nations organisations.
  • Establish principles in the administration of social security, including proactively assisting people to access support; treating people with respect.
  • Making adjustments to service delivery to meet individual needs.

More urgency needed:

We are concerned that a number of major flaws in the current system are recommended for ‘further consideration’, ‘investigation’ or ‘review’ when the evidence of harm or ineffectiveness is clear. This includes:

  • The recommendation to “investigate” ways to better support people on DSP at risk of poverty, especially those in the private rental market and ensure they can cover their own living costs, while failing to recommend a lift in Rent Assistance.
  • The recommendation to ‘investigate’ the impact that the requirement that a condition be ‘fully diagnosed, treated and stabilised’ to be eligible for the DSP. This currently excludes many people who are acutely unwell, including those being treated for cancer who are in an intolerable position. Urgent action to reform this requirement is required.
  • The recommendation to ‘consider’ reform to the rigid 20 points system to enable the points to be accumulated from across the impairment tables. The review of the impairment tables must be an imperative, as the narrow criteria imposed by the impairment tables do not account for co-occurring disabilities. Access to the DSP should consider the whole person.
  • The recommendation to ‘consider’ reintroducing the treating doctors report.

People with disability have waited long enough, especially during the current pandemic. The pandemic has disproportionately impacted people with disability with additional and unreasonable costs imposed to stay safe. Lack of access to affordable housing, a failing NDIS and supply chainissues are additional costs for people with disability, who are already living in poverty.

Now is not the time to ‘further consider’ or ‘investigate’ the issues with DSP which formed the basis for this Inquiry in the first instance. People with disability need urgent action.

Disability Rights Groups urge the next government to form a Ministerial or DSS Departmental advisory group led by agencies representing people with disability and to urgently implement the recommendations of the review as early as possible.

The recommendations are disappointingly silent on the urgent need to increase the Jobseeker payment for all recipients, including those with a disability, and the failure to make any meaningful recommendation to directly address the additional cost of disability.

We call on the Minister to act quickly to implement the inquiry’s recommendations and do everything in its power to end the cruelty being experienced by people with disabilities and serious illnesses when trying to access the DSP.

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