Bills Digest no. 83, 2016–17
PDF version [481KB]
Social Policy Section
Purpose of the Bill
Disability Employment Services
Age Pension changes
Key issues and provisions
Policy position of non-government
Position of major interest groups
Statement of Compatibility with Human
Date introduced: 16
House: House of
later of the day after Royal Assent is granted and 1 July 2017.
Links: The links to the Bill,
its Explanatory Memorandum and second reading speech can be found on the
Bill’s home page, or through the Australian
When Bills have been passed and have received Royal Assent,
they become Acts, which can be found at the Federal Register of Legislation
All hyperlinks in this Bills Digest are correct as
at March 2017.
The purpose of the Disability Services Amendment (Linking
Upper Age Limits for Disability Employment Services to Pension Age) Bill 2017 (the
Bill) is to amend the Disability Services
Act 1986 (the DS Act) to change the upper age limit for people
receiving rehabilitation services provided by the Commonwealth to the ‘pension
age’ as defined in the Social Security Act
1991 (the SS Act).
The DS Act is the legislative basis for the
Commonwealth to fund services for people with disabilities. Part III of the DS
Act outlines a range of rehabilitation services that may be provided if the
Secretary of the Department of Social Services (DSS) considers them necessary
or desirable, including:
(a) employment and vocational training, educational
courses and programs, and mobility and other independent living training;
(b) diagnostic and assessment services, occupational
therapy, physiotherapy, speech therapy, and counselling and social work
(c) accommodation, transportation and personal support
(d) prostheses and aids, including:
(i) home and work‑place modifications;
(ii) modifications to vehicles, appliances and
(e) the maintenance and repair of prostheses and aids;
(f) books, tools of trade and other equipment and
(g) any other goods and services the Secretary
considers necessary or desirable.
amendments will ensure that rehabilitation services can continue to be provided
to individuals under the Disability Employment Services (DES) program up to the
Age Pension qualifying age as it increases incrementally from July 2017. This
is a technical amendment that is unlikely to prove controversial.
The Disability Employment Services (DES) program ‘provides
support and assistance to people with disability, injury or health conditions
to help them prepare for, find and keep a job’.
DES are delivered by a range of for-profit and not-for-profit organisations.
A discussion paper published by DSS in November 2016 stated there were
more than 180,000 people currently registered to receive support through DES.
The DES program consists of two types of services which
support eligible people to secure and maintain employment in the open labour
market. Employment Support Services (ESS) provides ongoing support at High, Moderate
and Flexible levels to people with a disability that is likely to be permanent.
The level of service provided is dependent on the needs of the individual and
their employer. The target group for these services does not have an upper age
limit under Part II of the DS Act.
The other service type under the DES program, Disability
Management Services (DMS), provides occasional or non-ongoing support to people
with a temporary or permanent disability.
The target group for these services under Part III of the DS Act only
includes people less than 65 years of age.
One of the objects of the DS Act is ‘to assist in
achieving positive outcomes, such as increased independence, employment
opportunities and integration in the community, for persons with disabilities
who are of working age by the provision of comprehensive rehabilitation
services’ (emphasis added).
The DS Act currently allows for the provision of rehabilitation services
to people aged up to 65, which has been the age at which people have been
deemed no longer of working age because they may have then qualified for the
However, as part of the Rudd Government’s 2009 pension
reforms, amendments were made to the SS Act to increase the qualifying
age for the Age Pension.
From 1 July 2017 the minimum age required will increase from 65 years to
65 years and six months, and the qualifying age will increase by six months
every two years so that it will be 67 years from 1 July 2023.
The Bill amends the DS Act to align the upper age
limit for DES service provision to the Age Pension qualifying age, thereby
ensuring continuity of service for working age people with disability.
Key issues and provisions
The DS Act does not currently include a definition
of ‘pension age’. Item 1 of the Bill inserts a definition of ‘pension
age’ into the DS Act which is the same as the definitions outlined in the
SS Act dictionary.
Item 2 establishes that the target group of Part
III of the DS Act (Provision of rehabilitation services by the
Commonwealth) includes people who have attained 14 years of age but have not
attained pension age.
If the Bill is not passed, the target group of Part III of
the DS Act will remain people between 14 and 65 years old. Therefore, from
1 July 2017 people aged from 65 years up to the revised pension age will not
have access to rehabilitation programs or the Age Pension.
The Bill has not been referred for inquiry and report by
any parliamentary committee.
position of non-government parties/independents
Neither the non-government parties nor independent members
appeared to have commented on the Bill at the time of writing.
major interest groups
At the time of writing, the Bill had not been the subject
of substantial public discussion.
The Explanatory Memorandum states the Bill will result in
‘a total estimated cost of $4.6 million over the current forward estimates
Statement of Compatibility
with Human Rights
As required under Part 3 of the Human Rights
(Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 (Cth), the Government has assessed the
Bill’s compatibility with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared
in the international instruments listed in section 3 of that Act. The
Government considers that the Bill is compatible with human rights obligations
under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
. Disability Services
Act 1986, subsection 20(2).
of Social Services (DSS), ‘1.1.I.95 independently
of a program of support’, Guide to Social Security Law, version 1.230,
DSS website, 20 March 2017.
Employment Services’, DSS website, 1 December 2016; DSS, ‘Disability
Employment Services reform’, DSS website, . Current contracts for the
provision of DES expire in 2018. In 2015 the Australian Government commissioned
a review of the disability employment framework to consider developing a new
model to be implemented from March 2018.
Disability Employment Services from 2018: discussion paper, DSS, November 2016,
independently of a program of support’, op. cit.
. Disability Services
Act 1986, section 8.
independently of a program of support’, op. cit. From 2015, people who
had been registered with CRS Australia (formerly the Commonwealth
Rehabilitation Service) were registered with a Disability Management Services
. Disability Services
Act 1986, section 18.
Services Act 1986, paragraph 3(1)(f).
Daniels, L Buckmaster and P Yeend, Social
Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Pension Reform and Other 2009 Budget
Measures) Bill 2009, Bills digest, 179, 2008–09, Parliamentary Library,
Canberra, 2009, pp. 17–22.
of Human Services (DHS), ‘Age
Pension’, DHS website, 10 March 2017; DSS, ‘18.104.22.168 qualification
for Age’, Guide to Social Security Law, version 1.230, DSS
website, 20 March 2017.
. Social Security Act
1991, subsections 23(5A)–(5D).
Memorandum, Disability Services Amendment (Linking Upper Age Limits for
Disability Employment Services to Pension Age) Bill 2017, p. 1.
Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights can be found at the fifth page of
Memorandum to the Bill (numbered as page 1).
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