Disability groups have welcomed the emergence of the NDIS unscathed from yesterday’s Budget announcement but have expressed concerns over changes to the Disability Support Pension.
Disability advocates have flagged the need for a jobs guarantee rather than a welfare guarantee in the wake of changes which they say are set to push people with disabilities into the workforce.
The eligibility of people who went onto the DSP between 2008 and 2011 will be assessed 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, meaning they will either need to be in education or training or be seeking employment on a regular basis.
“Cutting people off the DSP won’t create jobs. Employment of people with disability has declined over the past decade, so moving people off the DSP won’t lead to employment, it will just lead to poverty,” Matthew Wright, CEO of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO).
“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.
“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?” Wright said.
“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,” Baker said.
The Treasurer also announced that both the Disability Support Pension and the Carer Payment will from now on be CPI indexed rather than indexed to Average Male Weekly Earnings.
Ara Cresswell, CEO of Carers Australia said it was widely acknowledged that CPI indexing had continuously pushed people who were on Newstart below the poverty line.
“The CPI index is a pricing index and does not reflect the real cost of living,” she said.
“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.
Despite welcoming the announcement that the Government was set to roll out the NDIS People with Disability Australia (PWDA) also expressed concerns, calling for the Government to fill a dedicated Disability Discrimination Commissioner position from July 2014.
“We congratulate Government on its decision to leave the rollout timetable and funding for the National Disability Insurance Scheme untouched, including addressing an error in the application of the efficiency dividend. The Productivity Commission said the NDIS would generate a 1 per cent boost to the GDP through greater workforce participation by people with disability and carers. It is the right and decent thing to do.
“Implementing the NDIS and creating opportunity through jobs will require a concerted attack on discrimination and the barriers which people with disability face every day. For that reason, PWDA notes the decision to reduce appointments to the Australian Human Rights Commission and calls on Government to ensure that a dedicated Disability Discrimination Commissioner is appointed when vacancies occur in July 2014,” said Mr Wallace.
Social Ventures Australia CEO Michael Traill said that In an environment of tight fiscal discipline, social sector organisations would find it increasingly challenging to meet the needs of Australians struggling to escape the cycle of disadvantage.
“While there is a need to better use constrained resources, funding decisions around education and employment raise red flags that the evidence of what works is not front and centre. A return to Work for the Dole and reduced funding for peak education bodies are cases in point,” he said.
‘We would urge the government to look closely at all education and employment spending to ensure it is targeted at the initiatives that will have real impact on improving outcomes for those Australian children and families who need it most.’
‘This includes ensuring that unemployment arrangements are targeted at opportunities that enable people to quickly transition into paid work, and partnerships with the corporate sector are forged to create real job opportunities for people at risk of exclusion.’
The Abbott Government has announced an expansion of the number of non‐government service providers delivering Disability Employment Services (DES).
Minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews said the Government will tender the 47 per cent of the DES‐DMS that is currently delivered by CRS Australia, an arm of the Department of Human Services.
According to Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield, a recent evaluation shows that the DES‐DMS is delivering better employment outcomes than its predecessor, the Vocational Rehabilitation Service.
“The Abbott Government understands that we need to help more people with disability who have a capacity to work to be able to participate in employment,” Fifield said.
“We want to build on the strengths of DES and increase the quality and responsiveness of the support we give to people with disability and their employers.”
Treasurer’s Budget speech is HERE
The details of the Budget’s Social Services package can be found HERE
The Budget Papers can be found HERE
This article first appeared on ‘Pro Bono News’ on 14 May 2014.