The Government has defended plans to alter the Disability Support Pension to make it harder for some people to receive it permanently.
More than 800,000 Australians receive up to $813 a fortnight on the pension, for people who are permanently blind or have a physical or intellectual condition that stops them from working.
The Government says the number of people on the pension has grown by 20 per cent in the past decade and the cost to the budget last financial year was $15 billion.
Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews says he is looking at a number of options for change, and would prefer a two-tier system that separates permanent and temporary recipients.
“We don’t want to condemn people to what is virtually a dead-end these days in terms of the DSP,” he told AM.
“We know it’s good for people in terms of their psychological outlook as well.”
However, Labor says the pension should not be the first place the Government goes in search of savings.
Opposition human services spokesman Doug Cameron says the Coalition’s plan to significantly increase the threshold for paid parental leave should be the focus instead.
“There are a range of areas where money could be easily identified to make sure that we look after the most vulnerable in our community,” Senator Cameron said.
“This paid parental leave scheme that Tony Abbott’s got in place surely that’s an area we should be looking before we go for the most vulnerable in society.”
Disability support advocates have also expressed concern about the potential effects of changes to the current system.
Maree O’Halloran from the National Welfare Rights Network says she is worried the Government will eventually move people off the pension and onto a lower payment.
“If it were a temporary DSP, and people were exited down to the unemployment benefit, about $35 per day, trying to live on just under $15,000 per annum and living with a disability as well, then, I don’t think anyone would applaud that outcome,” she said.
Ms O’Halloran says employers also need to be open to hiring someone with a disability.
This article first appeared on ‘ABC News’ on 23 December 2013.