People with disability should not be forced to live in poverty. Australia’s social security system needs reform so it can provide the safety net we all expect. The current rate of Newstart is so low that job seekers are living in poverty. Eligibility requirements for the Disability Support Pension (DSP) need to be fairer for us all. The application and reporting process for social security payments needs to be more accessible.
What does the Australian Government need to do?
- Raise the rate of Newstart by at least $75 per week within the first 100 days of forming a new government.
- Establish a Senate inquiry into the adequacy of the social security system for people with disability. The Terms of Reference for the inquiry should be designed with people with disability, and should include a review of the current approach and definitions within the impairment tables, debt recovery processes, and ways in which people with disability can be supported to gain entry into open employment, without being punished through the withdrawal of payments.
- Stop any further changes to social security payments until the Senate inquiry is complete and recommendations are fully implemented.
Why do people with disability want these changes?
People with disability want a fair social security system that recognises the barriers we face in seeking and gaining full-time employment. These barriers include a lack of flexible job design and workplace practices; difficulties in accessing reasonable workplace accommodations; inaccessible public transport to get to and from work; and social and cultural workplace attitudes including stigma around employing people with disability.
People with disability face additional costs of living that make it harder to survive on social security. These include higher medical expenses, and costs of accessible transport, accessible housing and assistive technology.
Non-government organisations and business leaders agree that Newstart is no longer providing an adequate safety net for people looking for work. It is estimated that 25-30% of people in receipt of Newstart are people with disability and/or chronic illness.
Those of us on Newstart are disproportionately affected by the low rates of payment, because we have additional expenses associated with disability. These expenses come out of our social security payments, as the majority of expenses are not covered by the NDIS, and many of us relying on social security are not NDIS participants. This makes it increasingly hard to survive on what we have left.
We need Newstart rates to be increased as a matter of urgency to enable us to have access to the financial support we need while we find work. Driving people into poverty and punishing them for not having a job is cruel and inhumane and, ultimately, does not help us achieve the goal of entering or re-entering the workforce.
Disability Support Pension
The Disability Support Pension (DSP) provides an important safety net for those of us who are unable to participate in full-time employment.
Currently, assessment of eligibility to the DSP is based on medical diagnosis of impairment, rather than considering the numerous barriers that we face when finding and keeping a job. This approach fails to properly assess the impact of disability on our lives, and can delay and exclude our access to the DSP if we have complex needs or if we don’t have a diagnosis that fits within one specific impairment type. As a result, many of us are forced onto Newstart, when we should be entitled to the DSP.
The DSP needs to be more accessible to those of us who have episodic disability and who may move in and out of employment. We need to remain eligible for the DSP for two years from the time we begin work, without fear of losing access to the pension or having to reapply.
Developing a more holistic and person-centred approach to the DSP and its eligibility requirements will make it fairer. It will enable us to have access to the right safety nets and supports.