The mother of an intellectually disabled man who initially received a $15,000 “robodebt” has described the Department of Human Services’ conduct in seeking to recover the debt as a form of “disability bullying”.
The Senate’s community affairs committee is on Thursday hearing from social service experts, who are continuing their calls for the scheme to be scrapped.
People with disabilities who are considered capable of working receive Newstart, the welfare allowance for the unemployed, rather than the disability support pension which needs an extra 343 AUD (235 U.S. dollar) per week.
Successive Governments have made meeting the eligibility threshold so burdensome and difficult that many people with disability, who may have been eligible in the past, can no longer access the Disability Support Pension (DSP). The Australian Federation of Disability organisations (AFDO) has commissioned three new studies by various Australian universities to highlight the economic and health impacts of disability, particularly for Indigenous Australians.
Two in five Indigenous households relying on the Disability Support Pension ran out of money for basic items such as food and fuel in the last year, new research shows, prompting calls from disability advocates for the government to urgently review the scheme.
Those with a mild disability would need an extra $87 per week at least to have the same standard of living as other Australians, while those with a profound or severe disability required $173 per week more. But the gap in standard of living became even more stark for people with disabilities who were deemed to have some capacity to work and placed on Newstart.
Disability Advocacy Network Australia CEO Mary Mallett said the shift towards Newstart is a “huge concern” because there is a significant financial difference between the DSP and Newstart.
Amid debate around the low rate of Newstart, for those nearing pension age, a collision of policy adjustments is taking its toll
A severely ill woman in her 60s who cannot leave the house without a mobility scooter was wrongly judged as fit for work by Centrelink and denied the disability support pension.
Automated Centrelink debts, described by critics as robodebts, have been criticised by legal groups because they require welfare recipients to prove they do not owe any money.
The 23-year-old had been trying to get on the Disability Support Pension since late 2015, but it took her 22 months before she was even able to complete an application.
Disability Resources Centre in partnership with Social Security Rights Victoria recently ran a training day for Disability Advocates around Disability Support Pension applications, processes and appeals. They have launched resources aimed at workers and at people with disabilities to use to assist navigating the system. See attached link to download the resources.
The man, known as John to protect his privacy, was left to survive on Newstart as he battled stage 3 bowel cancer and had earlier attempted suicide after learning of a two-month wait on his pension claim, according to Katrina Newman, who took up his case in February.
Almost one-in-five Australians are living with a disability. Those with a mental health condition make up the largest group on welfare
“I am blind and there is no electronic application form. How can I be independent? This is debilitating … I don’t have a support person, family member, or a friend who can help me out with my paperwork. I can’t see to sign a form.”