Proposed changes to social security for people with a disability

Vision Australia responds to Welfare Review report

In August 2014 Vision Australia made a written submission to the Federal Government’s review of welfare and employment responding strongly to key issues and maintaining a watching brief on behalf of the community of people who are blind or have low vision.

This is another example of the important advocacy and Government relations work that is done by Vision Australia on behalf of our community.

Vision Australia’s submission highlighted the non-optional costs of blindness which include living expenses and the additional cost of engaging in training and employment opportunities.  

We also put forward options to increase employment opportunities across a range of areas and cited Vision Australia research showing a 58 per cent unemployment rate amongst people who are blind or have low vision.

Background

An independent Reference Group was commissioned by the Minister for Social Services, the Hon Kevin Andrews MP and comprised Mr Patrick McClure AO (Chair), Ms Sally Sinclair and Mr Wesley Aird.

The Reference Group was asked to advise on how the welfare system can:
  • provide incentives to work for those who are able to work
  • adequately support those who are genuinely not able to work
  • support social and economic participation through measures that build individual and family capability
  • be affordable and sustainable both now and in the future and across economic cycles
  • be easy to access and understand, and able to be delivered efficiently and effectively.
The Reference Group’s Interim Report called “A New System for Better Employment and Social Outcomes” proposed four pillars of reform:
  • Simpler and sustainable income support system – streamlining the current system which has 20 different benefit categories, and more than 50 separate allowances, is confusing, unwieldy and unsustainable.
  • Strengthening individual and family capability – measures to help people build the capacity they need to participate economically and socially, to the extent they are able. The report notes long-term reliance on income support increases the risks of poor health, low self-esteem and isolation.
  • Engaging with employers – encouraging employers to make jobs available for people with disability, and stressing the importance of tailored support services to sustain employment outcomes.
  • Building community capacity – initiatives to foster connections between corporates, philanthropic organisations, government and community including volunteering, help for micro-business and the role of local co-operatives.

Next steps

The next steps in the process are that the Reference Group will consider public submissions and further engage with stakeholders and the public before providing a Final Report for the Minister’s consideration later this year.

To view the interim report and keep track of the progress of these important national matters you can visit the DSS website here

Vision Australia will continue to engage in this debate to further the interests of people who are blind or have low vision. 

Download a copy of an accessible version of Vision Australia’s response to the Interim Report (Word, 65KB).

Changes announced in the 2014 Federal Budget

The key changes to the Aged Pension and Disability Support Pension (DSP) announced in the 2014 budget, and subject to the passage of various Government bills through the Senate are:
  • Pension age of 70 by 2035. Under current legislation the Age Pension qualifying age increases by 6 months every 2 years commencing 1 July 2017 until it reaches age 67 on 1 July 2023. The Government proposes to continue this rate of increase until the qualifying age reaches age 70 on 1 July 2035. That is, on 1 July 2017, the pension age will be 65 years and 6 months. On 1 July 2019, the pension age will be 66 years. And so forth until it reaches 70 years on 1 July 2035.
  • From September 2017, freeze the income and asset eligibility thresholds for three years.
  • From September 2017, all pensions, including the Aged Pension, Disability Support Pension and Carer Payment, will be indexed against CPI rather than Male Total Average Weekly Earnings. This will result in a lower annual rate of income growth.
  • DSP recipients under 35 years who have an assessed work capacity of at least 8 hours a week and a participation plan will be subject to compulsory activity requirements, such as participating in a disability employment program or education and training (sanctions for non-compliance will be introduced).
  • From 1 January 2015, Disability Support Pension recipients who travel overseas can only continue to receive their payments for a maximum of four weeks overseas in any 52 week period. Disability Support Pension recipients will have their payment cancelled if they are overseas for longer than four weeks and will need to reclaim and have their medical condition(s) and work capacity reassessed against current impairment tables. Currently Disability Support Pension recipients can be paid for up to six weeks for each trip taken outside Australia.
The department has advised that DSP recipients should contact Department of Human Services (DHS) to advise that they would like to access indefinite portability of their DSP.
 
As part of assessing the eligibility for indefinite portability, DHS would review the person’s DSP record to confirm they were granted under the current manifest provisions, and therefore meet the eligibility criteria for indefinite portability of their DSP.
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