The National Disability and Carers Alliance (NDCA) is disappointed that the Federal Government has chosen to reduce the real value of the Disability Support Pension (DSP) and the Carer Payment and will impose new participation requirements on people under 35 with a disability without waiting for the outcomes of the final report of the McClure Review of the Social Welfare System.
The Treasurer has announced that both the DSP and the Carer Payment will from now on be CPI indexed rather than indexed to Average Male Weekly Earnings as is currently the case.
“It is widely acknowledged that CPI indexing has continuously pushed people who are already on Newstart below the poverty line,” said Ara Cresswell, CEO of Carers Australia.
“The CPI index is a pricing index and does not reflect the real cost of living.
“When you also consider that people with a disability and family and friend carers tend to have expensive medical expenses and a range of specialised service and support requirements, and that they are significantly more likely to live in low income households relative to the Australian average, it is clear that these changes will add another layer of financial disadvantage to the already financially challenged and vulnerable,” said Ms Cresswell.
With respect to the Disability Support Pension, the eligibility of people who went onto the DSP between 2008 and 2011 will be reassessed against more rigorous criteria and Disability Support Pensioners under the age of 35 who are considered to be capable of working for 8 hours a week or more will be subject to the same participation requirements as those on Newstart. This means that they will either need to be in education or training or be seeking employment on a regular basis.
“The question is, where are the jobs these people can transition to? Cutting the DSP won’t create jobs, it will just create poverty. You can’t just cut payments with the promise of untested and untried programs in the future,” said Matthew Wright, CEO of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO).
“There is no doubt that if people with disability can find suitable, sustainable employment they are likely to be better off financially and in terms of their general social wellbeing.
“However, in a job market where unemployment is comparatively high and where many thousands of workers are becoming redundant on a continuing basis, including as a result of the Budget cuts to the public service, how are people with a disability supposed to compete?” asked Mr Wright.
Ken Baker, Chief Executive of National Disability Services, said “NDS is concerned that while pushing more people with disability to look for work the Budget fails to invest extra in the services that assist people with disability to secure jobs.
“At a minimum, the anticipated savings from changes to the DSP should be directed now to supporting people with disability to gain and sustain employment,” Dr Baker concluded.
The Alliance consists of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, Carers Australia and National Disability Services.