Disability Support Pension Customers: Statistical Summary

The Disability Support Pension (DSP) is a means tested payment for people with a disability. To be eligible for the DSP a person must be permanently blind or have a permanent physical, intellectual or psychiatric impairment. To qualify for the DSP, a person must be aged 16 years or over but have not reached pension age at the time of claiming (for more information on eligibility see the Centrelink website).

As at June 2010, there were 792 581 DSP customers, this is an increase of 35 463 (4.7 per cent change) from the previous year. As a proportion of the total Australian working age population, DSP customers (aged 15 to 64) made up 5.2 per cent. Of the 792 581, only 20 per cent (158 714) did not received the maximum rate of payment due to the income or assets test.

The number of DSP customers has been steadily increasing. In 1991, when the Disability Support Pension replaced the Invalid Pension, Sheltered Employment Allowances and Rehabilitation Allowance as part of the Disability Reform Package, the number of customers was 334 234. The average annual growth since 1991 has been 4.4 per cent.

The ratio of males to females receiving the DSP has changed over the years, now there are almost as many females as males. In 1991, 73.2 per cent of DSP customers were male; in 2000 this had decreased to 63.5 per cent and in 2009 it was 55.8 per cent.

Disability Support Pension customers by sex
June 1989 to June 2009

In 2009, 56 per cent of DSP customers were aged 50 years and over, similar to the 54.4 per cent in 2000. The majority of those over 50 were aged 50 to 59 (32.3 per cent). The proportion aged under 20 has remained stable—2.5 per cent in 2000, 2.4 per cent in 2009.

In 2009, most DSP customers were single/separated/divorced/widowed (67.1 per cent compared to 60.8 per cent in 2000), and the majority were not home owners (67.1 per cent in 2009 compared to 62.8 per cent in 2000). Also, most were Australian born (74.3 per cent), with 5.3 per cent from the United Kingdom, 1.7 per cent from New Zealand and 1.4 per cent from both Lebanon and Greece.

At a regional level (Statistical Local Area), those areas with the highest proportion (percentage of the adult population aged 15 to 64) who are receiving the Disability Support Pension are (see footnote for limitations of data):

  • Kalgoorlie/Boulder-Pt B (WA) 35.2 per cent
  • Unincorp. Whyalla (SA) 24.4 per cent
  • Peterborough (SA) 20.4 per cent
  • Rockhampton-Mount Morgan (Qld) 20.0 per cent
  • Dalby-Tara (Qld) 17.6 per cent
  • Brewarrina (NSW) 17.5 per cent
  • Playford-Elizabeth (SA) 15.6 per cent

Statistical Local Areas with the lowest proportion of DSP customers are:
  • Roxby Downs (SA) 0.4 per cent
  • Melbourne (C)-S'bank-D'lands (Vic) 0.4 per cent
  • City (ACT) 0.7 per cent
  • St Lucia (Qld) 0.8 per cent
  • Barton (ACT) 0.8 per cent
  • Acton (ACT) 0.9 per cent
  • Ku-ring-gai (NSW) 0.9 per cent


  • Some regions have missing data due to the need to protect privacy by confidentialising data in areas with small numbers of beneficiaries, or due to incompatible geographic boundaries.
  • The population used to calculate the proportions are 15 to 64 year olds, however, there is a small number of DSP customers aged over 65 (13 622).
  • Statistical Local Areas are based on 2008 Geographical boundaries.


FaHCSIA, Statistical Paper No. 8, Income support customers: a Statistical overview, 2009
FaHCSIA, Annual Report, 2009-2010, page 93
ABS, National Regional Profiles, 2005-2009


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