Government senators' additional comments

Government senators support consideration of practical improvements to the Disability Support Pension (DSP) and its implementation. However, it is important to note the following:
As mentioned in the majority report, the DSP is designed to support people who are permanently unable to work due to disability and paid at the same rate as the Age Pension, which is the highest rate within the social security system, with a total of $18.37 billion in expenditure in 2020–21.
A series of reforms over the last decade by successive governments have changed key aspects of the DSP, including strengthening the claim assessment process, the assessment of medical conditions, and implementing revised impairment tables for the assessment of DSP eligibility.

DSP impairment reform

The Department of Social Services (the DSS) is currently undertaking a review of the DSP impairment tables, which were originally due to sunset on 1 April 2022. However, the COVID-19 pandemic significantly delayed the start of this review.
The Government made the decision to defer the sunsetting date by 12 months to 1 April 2023. To date, significant work has been undertaken in consultation with stakeholders and people with disability. It is important to note that the deferral will also provide the opportunity for this committee’s report into the purpose, intent, and adequacy of the DSP to be considered in the impairment table review, where relevant.

Services Australia’s communications

Work is currently underway on a variety of communication products to help customers better understand the DSP eligibility rules and why a claim may have been rejected.
DSP content on Services Australia’s (the Agency) website is also being improved, and this includes the introduction of a DSP pre-claim guide that provides an early indication of a customer’s likely eligibility for DSP.
The Agency’s website also has medical evidence checklists available for customers and treating health professionals to assist with claiming the DSP. The DSP online claim helps customers to identify and select the medical evidence they will provide with their claim and helps them to upload the evidence.
The Agency has been involved in wide-ranging consultations with customers with disability, ranging in age from 16 to 65 years, from across New South Wales and Victoria, who have claimed the DSP within the previous 6 months.
The final DSP online claim design:
includes a simplified language and layout;
includes a digital assistant offering extra information and question-specific context;
guides customers through the eligibility rules, including hyperlinks to the agency’s web pages for more detailed information;
guides customers about specific medical evidence requirements for certain conditions, such as mental health and visual impairments;
supports customers who identify as vulnerable to submit their claim without all the required documentation;
includes the option to claim the JobSeeker Payment within the one claim process to simplify claiming an income support payment while the DSP claim is being assessed; and
achieves a AA rating aligned with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

DSP financial sustainability

Ensuring the long-term sustainability of the social security and welfare system is a key focus. This is in the interest of the Australian public and individuals who engage with the income support system, for now and into the future.
Public expenditure on programs associated with social security and welfare, including the DSP, are set in the context of a need for fiscal sustainability and the impact of such programs on the budget. As a result, increases in the level of support provided by the Government would have to be funded through an increase in taxation revenue or a reduction in spending on other programs.
Government senators also highlight that the Government has provided unprecedented levels of support in response to the economic impact of COVID-19. Since the onset of the pandemic, the Commonwealth has provided $337 billion worth of support to individuals, families, and businesses—equivalent to 16.3 per cent of GDP.


The Agency has a number of arrangements in place to provide Auslan/sign language interpreter services to all customers and has service provider contracts for on-site booked customer appointments in all states and territories. In addition, the Agency has direct contracts with 21 Auslan/sign language interpreters who form part of the internal interpreting and translating panel.
In 2020–21, the Agency answered 4 138 calls from deaf and hearing-impaired customers using teletypewriters (TTY). A TTY is a device that lets people who are deaf or speech impaired use a telephone to communicate by allowing them to type text messages. A TTY is required at both ends of the conversation in order to communicate.
The Agency continues to explore video-chat technology as an alternate option for servicing deaf and hearing-impaired customers with positive feedback received from both customers and staff following a recently completed trial.

Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021–2031

The Government launched the new national disability strategy—Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021–2031 (the Strategy)—on International Day of People with Disability (3 December 2021).
The Strategy is a ten-year commitment by all governments to uphold the rights, participation, and inclusion of all Australians with disability.
The Strategy was developed in close consultation with people within the disability sector, spanning over a 2-year period. Extensive public consultation has been undertaken with more than 3 000 people, including those living with disability and their families, carers, and representatives.
A key focus of the strategy is improving employment opportunities and creating inclusive workplace cultures where people with disability thrive in their career. As part of the Strategy, an associated plan—Employ My Ability—was also created.
Employ My Ability was developed through significant stakeholder consultation over 18 months. It was guided by the Disability Employment Advisory Committee which was co-chaired by Dylan Alcott and Simon McKeon.

Disability Employment Services program reform

As mentioned in the majority report, the Government is currently designing a new Disability Employment Services (DES) program to replace the current model, which ends on 30 June 2023.
The DSS is consulting with people with disability, employers, and providers on the design and implementation of a new disability employment support model to ensure it supports both people with disability to find and maintain employment, and businesses who employ people with disability to ensure their employment is successful.
This year alone, the Government is investing nearly $1.4 billion in DES to help people with disability, injury, or illness, find and keep a job.

Social workers

The Agency’s social workers deliver face-to-face and telephone services to customers experiencing vulnerability. Customers requiring professional assistance can contact the Agency, ask to speak to a social worker, and be referred.
In addition to direct customer service, social workers provide training and consultation to Agency staff to ensure they are adequately equipped to identify vulnerable customers, make referrals to social work and other services, and appropriately respond to those at risk of harm.
In closing, the Government is strongly committed to the integrity and sustainability of the income support system as a safety net for people who need it most.
Government senators thanks all of the individuals and organisations who submitted to the inquiry and appeared as witnesses.
Senator Wendy AskewSenator Hollie Hughes
Deputy Chair

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