Poverty: The reality of the DSP

Monday 13 October 2014

Poverty data contained in a new report released by the Australia Council of Social Services (ACOSS)paints a grim picture for people with disability in Australia.

27.4% of people with disability are at risk of poverty (compared to 12.8% for the general population). When housing costs are taken into account, the figure increases to 44.5%. The situation is even worse for those dependent on income support.

“Living on the Disability Support Pension (DSP) is not a life of luxury. 48% of people on the Disability Support Pension live in poverty,” said Craig Wallace, President of People with Disability Australia (PWDA).

The ACOSS report shows an overall increase in poverty in Australia, to 2.5 million people.  However we suggest that in reality the poverty rates amongst people with disability living in Australia in 2014 is likely to be even higher.

The most recent data on poverty rates amongst people with disability is from 2009-2010. Since then, employment participation rates for people with disability have fallen; partly due to a lack of genuinely supportive employment initiatives.  In addition, social security reforms targeting DSP recipients over the past three years have resulted in 1 in 4 unemployed Newstart recipients having significant disability.

“The economic situation for people with disability in Australia is dire,” said Co-CEO Matthew Bowden. “Moreover, this 2009-10 data doesn’t take into account the additional costs of living with disability. The majority of people with disability have little to no savings after paying for, healthcare, transport and housing. These costs exist whether or not a person has a job.”

“With welfare cuts targeting DSP recipients, it’s important that government obtains accurate new data about the real nature of poverty that people with disability experience. Policy makers don’t see cost of disability in their bottom lines, but it affects people with disability, particularly those on the DSP, every day.  People are slipping further into poverty,” said Mr Bowden.

According to PWDA President Craig Wallace, “It is also problematic that people with disability continue to be targeted by budget measures and proposed welfare changes while the messaging that we are rorters and need to be forced into work is increasingly counterproductive to employers.”

“Referring people to employment services is no guarantee of getting them jobs and we need more responsive employment services especially as we face a hostile employment market, with youth unemployment now around 13%.”

“If successive Government policies aimed at increasing employment rates of people with disability were working, this would be reflected in the data, including for Government as an employer,” said Mr Wallace.

MEDIA: Craig Wallace 0413 135 731
Phone: 02 9370 3100 Toll Free: 1800 422 015 Email: pwd@pwd.org.au
People with Disability Australia Incorporated (PWDA) is a national disability rights and advocacy, non-profit, non-government organisation. We have a cross-disability focus, representing the interests of people with all kinds of disability and our membership is made up of people with disability and organisations mainly constituted by people with disability.
Our vision is of a socially just, accessible and inclusive community, in which the human rights, citizenship, contribution, potential and diversity of all people with disability are respected and celebrated.