Schedule 3 – Assessing qualification for Disability Support Pension
This Schedule introduces a requirement, commencing from 3 September
2011, that people will need to provide evidence that they have tested their
future work capacity by participating in training or work-related activities to
be qualified for disability support pension. This new requirement will not
apply to claimants for disability support pension who have a severe impairment,
such as those who are clearly unable to work.
Under current arrangements:
…a person has a continuing inability to work because of an
impairment if the Secretary is satisfied that the impairment is of itself sufficient
to prevent the person from doing any work independently of a program of support
within the next two years, and either: (i) the impairment is of itself
sufficient to prevent the person from undertaking a training activity during
the next two years; or (ii) if the impairment does not prevent the person from
undertaking a training activity – such activity is unlikely (because of the
impairment) to enable the person to do any work independently of a program of
support with the next two years.
The key change that this Bill represents is the requirement for people claiming
the DSP to have demonstrated that they have participated actively in a program
of support. These programs of support include Department of Employment and
Workplace Relations funded employment services, Disability Management Services
and some Job Services Australia services.
Issues and impacts
This part of the Bill is an element of the Building Australia’s
Future Workforce measures. The broader changes to the DSP program include
increasing the number of hours a DSP recipient can work from 15 to 30 hours,
changes in arrangements for Disability Employment Services, and providing
incentives to encourage employers to employ people with disabilities. The
package is about providing incentives for people with disabilities to return
to, or engage with the workforce, improving employment services for DSP
recipients, and increasing the opportunities for people with disabilities to
There is no doubt that welfare reform, in particular changes to DSP
eligibility, is a contentious issue, however the positions of key stakeholders have
been consistent about this Budget measure. Toby Hall from Mission Australia
called for similar changes to those included in the Bill prior to the delivery
of the Budget. Mr Hall proposed that:
…successive governments and a failing welfare system have
allowed thousands of people without serious disabilities to move from the dole
to receiving disability pensions when they are not engaged in looking for work.
This is despite the fact they might have a capacity for employment and their
issues could be overcome with intensive support.
Mr Hall urged the Government to offer people receiving the DSP intensive
assistance and ‘a new stream in the employment service system to offer the
specialised help required’.
Similarly, Tony Nicholson from the Brotherhood of St Laurence said that
the budget measures were a step in the right direction: ‘At long last we see
policy initiatives that recognise that the most disadvantaged in our community
have modest mainstream aspirations and that they won't shy away from increased
One possible community concern relating specifically to this Schedule of
the Bill is that the requirement to attend programs of support could be onerous
for some DSP applicants, particularly if they live some distance away from
their local employment service providers. This concern needs to be balanced
against the potential benefits of increasing the workforce participation of
people with disabilities.
The Committee notes that this Budget measure is designed to ensure
applicants for DSP have tested their capacity for future employment by
undertaking and participating actively in a program of support.
The Committee finds that the requirements stipulated in this Bill are
not overly onerous when weighed against the potential social and economic
benefits of boosting the workforce participation of people with disabilities.
The Committee recommends that Schedule 3 – Assessing
qualification for Disability Support Pension of this bill be passed with