Nov 7, 2017

Disability support plummets as government turns up heat on the vulnerable

Disabled Australians are being turned away from the Disability Support Pension and forced onto punitive and untenable unemployment schemes.

Centrelink office

Over successive budgets, the federal government has committed to slashing the number of successful claimants for the disability support pension (DSP), as part of strict “welfare-to-work” reforms. These policies aim to reduce spending and welfare dependence by forcing thousands of disadvantaged Australians into work via Newstart’s punitive system of mutual obligations and minimal income.

One of these people is Quang Huynh, a 30-year-old man from Dandenong, who relies solely on Newstart payments and family support to manage his health. Huynh is a type 2 diabetic with serious heart, liver and kidney conditions. He also experiences difficulty walking, due to visual impairment from diabetic retinopathy, which has left him virtually blind in his left eye. Routinely in and out of hospital, he also attends a heart failure clinic on a tri-monthly basis, as well as regular renal and diabetic outpatient clinics.

Free Trial

You've hit members-only content.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

18 thoughts on “Disability support plummets as government turns up heat on the vulnerable

  1. John Homan

    The elephant in the room: Will rejection of the DSP also make them ineligible fort NDIS support?

    1. Nicholas

      No, a person does not need to receive a DSP to be eligible for an NDIS Plan. The two programs are completely separate. The DSP provides income to an individual. The NDIS provides funding to an individual so that they can purchase disability-related supports from registered NDIS providers.

  2. brian crooks

    for gods sake the few dimwits and redneck still supporting this gaggle of lying corrupt thieving bastards that keep crawling out of the coalition party rooms every week must see what damage these heartless grubs are doing to australian society, how can 46% of the population still support them and choose turdball as preferred P.M, jack the ripper would be a better P.M.the gestapo a better police force than the AFP and heinrich himmler a better choice than dutton to look after refugees, duttons final solution for them only lacks the gas ovens but maybe thats still in the planning stages, nothing is beyond these hard right rednecks, but then, there`s pauline is`nt there, god help us.

  3. Peter Schulz

    Most vocational rehabilitation researchers and practitioners consider impairment tables to be neither a valid nor reliable measurement of capacity to work in open employment, especially in the modern workplace where productivity standards are high. Impairment tables measure impairment, which is not conceptually the same as overall capacity to work consistently and productively. But this reality is beyond the comprehension of the bureaucratic simpletons who design and manage our ‘welfare’ system. This particularly disadvantages applicants with fluctuating conditions, such as pain or mental illness.
    Another little trick of the tables, which is used to good effect to deny DSP, is that the condition must be ‘fully treated and stabilised and won’t improve significantly within the next two years’. I have seen this used against applicants six months after suffering a severe stroke, because they ‘might’ improve, even when the treating rehab team says they won’t. Imagine the extra distress caused to someone unable to return home and facing permanent residential care due to the severity of their stroke impairments, when they get a letter from Centrelink saying they are ineligible for DSP because they have been rated at 0% impairment.
    But still, as the eloquent Brian Crooks reminds us above, this mob of healthy and wealthy bastards seem to find a perverse pleasure in attacking the sick, the poor, the vulnerable and the refugees. This is a far greater trashing of our Judeo-Christian heritage than same-sex marriage. Where is the Australian Christian lobby when you need them? – wasting their time on issues that harm no-one and casting the needy ‘neighbour’ to the wolves.

    1. BanksiaMarginata

      You’re spot on with your comments. Thanks, Peter.

    2. [email protected]

      Basically applications and reviews need to be treated like a court case from the beginning, with doctors reports that address all the necessary criteria in detail, of which doctors and many patients are unaware of in the first place. They will find any reason to reject a claim, and their weighting of the evidence is heavily biased.

  4. [email protected]

    It is time for a UBI (Universal Basic Income). I would suggest $40,000 a year. The money would flow back into the economy. Has any political party got the guts to do this…No. Time for a new party.

  5. Helen

    Working in aged care and disability for the past 25 years, I am almost at the point where I just want to lie down and cry. The commodification of care will result in such a ‘market’ failure the consequences are unimaginable. People are already confused. Now they are being dislocated from their familiar supports, with only those with alert and energetic advisers able to negotiate the bureaucratic inquisition. The only light at the end of the reforms (read cost cutting) is the quietly gathering view that the end of neo-liberalism is near. Older people and people with disability are not ‘customers’ or ‘consumers’ of care and support. Surely we’re more than economic units. Surely we are citizens.

    1. BanksiaMarginata

      Like. Thank you, Helen, and thank you so much for the work you do. I can understand how disheartening it must be when such cruel systems are in place. Please hang in there, if you can!

  6. klewso

    Honestly, the form of this “Right Supremacist” government in the way it picks on those most vulnerable…..

  7. Jude

    Here’s a novel thought to add some stimulus to our flagging economy. Pay people on Newstart, DSP, SPP, Aged Pernsion etc a wage above the poverty level. The economy would benefit, GST would be collected and some may even pay income tax. I wonder if the government has heard of this innovation?

  8. Irfan Yusuf

    Imagine how hard it is for people struggling with psychiatric disabilities. Rarely does Centrelink find a qualified psychiatrist to assess impairment. A huge percentage of Centrelink decisions are found to be wrong on appeal. But most people don’t have access to a Welfare Rights lawyer. I used to work in disability rights as a lawyer, and it’s an area few big city or suburban lawyers know much about. The whole system sucks to high heaven. These are vulnerable individuals that conservative and liberal pollies should be lining up to help.

    1. BanksiaMarginata

      Quite right, and the difficulties would be the same for people with fluctuating but often severe cognitive impairment, that is common with certain physical diseases like ME/CFS. In that disease, you would very likely not have the physical, mental or emotional energy to be able to work out how to appeal, fill out forms, and in general adequately participate in the process. If bedbound, you may not have any means to attend hearings, interviews, etc. These are the very reasons we are unable to work. Many sufferers are alone in the world too, with no-one to call on to help, due to the socially isolating nature of the symptoms. (Google UNREST for a marvellous new film that shows the realities of this still mysterious and much-maligned disease.)

    2. [email protected]

      Good point. Centrelink expects us to find our own specialists most of the time and then we have to find the money to pay their fees so they can write a report that usually doesn’t contain the exact detailed information that centrelink requires anyway!

  9. [email protected]

    Excellent article! I think the lack of public pressure is because those effected are not well enough to protest! Sadly many are not well enough to appeal these decisions either. I currently have 2 appeals in progress, one of which I am representing myself in federal court and the stress of it is exacerbating my conditions.

    1. BanksiaMarginata

      ‘I think the lack of public pressure is because those effected are not well enough to protest!’
      That’s certainly true in the world of ME/CFS, so I would imagine it might be so too for quite a few other illnesses and conditions. For us, whenever we’ve even tried to get up a powerful campaign for change it comes to nothing because of so many people having to drop out as their symptoms nosedive from the stress. Fighting a massive, immoveable system is counter- therapeutic when you’re desperately in need of rest so you can at least conserve your current energy for the basic essentials of life. But unless you happen to have celebrities taking up your cause, as happened with breast cancer and AIDS, no-one is going to stand up for you to fight Government agencies for basic support. People without direct experience of being seriously ill, long term, have no idea what conditions are like and what the needs are for the thousands of people with ‘hidden’ illnesses.
      Best of luck with your appeals, and I hope you can find ways to take care of yourself to mitigate the intensity of the stresses imposed, and avoid long term harm. In case it helps, I’ll just mention I’ve been finding mindfulness meditation (Buddhist based) super helpful when dealing with highly stressful situations that would otherwise have left me completely drained, depressed and with symptoms skyrocketing!

  10. [email protected]

    I am on my second appeal for DSP . The question is, what can anyone do to change things? I am incapable of work and live with severe pain, does the government want people like us to suicude? Itvseems so.

    1. BanksiaMarginata

      I’m so sorry you’re going through this, Ajgray. I wish you better luck with this appeal. But I know that doesn’t help much.
      Do you perhaps have a patient organisation/support group that could help bring about change by banding together to raise the issues you’re facing with members of the government, health/human services ministers, etc? Or just write to them anyway, yourself?
      My sister’s former boss taught her the ‘broken record’ technique. If people aren’t listening, you just keep patiently repeating the same thing, over and over and over and over again, to them and to anyone else who might be able to help/respond. Eventually, they get sick of hearing it and ignoring/ dismissing it, and may actually sit up and begin to take notice. Or so the theory goes! I have found it does work, sometimes, with some things; maybe it could work for you?

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details