Submitters to this inquiry expressed concern that the measures proposed
in the Bill may create a gap in service provision for people who rely on the
mobility allowance to find and maintain employment. The Minister for Social
Services (Minister), the Hon Christian Porter MP, stated that there are
currently around 60 000 mobility allowance recipients.
The key concerns raised by submitters relate to:
lack of detail about 'continuity of support arrangements' for current
mobility allowance recipients who would be ineligible for the NDIS;
supports available to those people who will be ineligible for
continuity of support arrangements and unable to access the NDIS;
ensuring equity of support for people who transition to the NDIS;
limiting the types of qualifying activities;
changing the continuation period from 12 to 4 weeks; and
removing the advance allowance.
The Department of Social Services (department) submitted that the Bill
is intended to:
... support the transition of Mobility Allowance funding to the
National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and to ensure that the NDIS is the
main program of support for people with a disability who need assistance to
enable them to fully engage in the workforce and other economic activities.
Continuity of support arrangements
The key concern raised by most submitters was the lack of detail about
'continuity of support arrangements' for current mobility allowance recipients
who do not transition to the NDIS once the mobility allowance ceases on 1 July
2020. Submitters expressed concern that while the Minister acknowledged these
people would receive 'continuity of support arrangements', there is limited
further detail available.
For example, Inclusion Australia highlighted that the lack of detail on the
arrangements is causing concern for people with intellectual disability and
... with the real fear that they will 'fall between the cracks'
with the Commonwealth and States each expecting each other to provide the
necessary transport support funding.
A number submitters representing people with vision impairment expressed
concern about the lack of detail on continuity of support arrangements for
people aged over 65 who would not be eligible for the NDIS, especially the
75 per cent of people over 65 who are blind or have vision
For example, Blind Citizens Australia submitted that:
The mobility allowance has played a key role in enabling
people who have not had the opportunity to be employed to pursue meaningful
activities, and to make invaluable contributions to their communities. The
removal of the mobility allowance could well prevent people in this situation,
(of whom there are many), to cease making such contributions due to the costs
These submitters recommended that the government provide clarity and
detail about how the continuity of support arrangements would operate.
The department submitted that evidence from the NDIS trial sites suggests
that around 30 per cent of current mobility allowance recipients would not be
eligible for an NDIS package of support. This includes 4 000 recipients aged
over 65 years old, and 14 000 aged under 65 years old.
The department confirmed that people aged over 65 who are currently
receiving Mobility Allowance and who will be ineligible for the NDIS 'will be
provided with continuity of support, which will initially be provided through
the Mobility Allowance program, pending finalisation of long-term arrangements'.
The department further noted that 'consideration is currently being given' to
the continuity of support arrangements that will apply to people ineligible to
enter the NDIS.
Representatives from the department told the committee that the decision
about long-term continuity of support arrangements would be finalised once more
data is collected about the needs of people transitioning to the NDIS,
consistent with the Australian Government's commitment to provide continuity of
support arrangements for people aged over 65 years:
There has been no decision taken yet on what the detail of
the long-term arrangements are, so, therefore, we have not consulted or figured
out a process to do that yet. That is partly because it is such early days and
we want to allow time. Governments have made a decision, firstly, but it will
give us a bit more time to look at what the pattern is and actually do better
calculations on the number of people across a range of current Commonwealth
programs that will require continuity of support ... The data that we have
currently—for example, for mobility allowance—are only estimates, so until we
see people test their eligibility or seek to apply for the NDIS we will not
People ineligible for continuity of support arrangements
Submitters expressed particular concern about the lack of provision for
mobility allowance to be made available to people who acquire blindness or
vision impairment after 65 years of age and who would not be covered by any
continuity of support arrangements available to current mobility allowance recipients.
Mr Bruce Maguire from Vision Australia told the committee of the importance of
supports, such as the mobility allowance, in assisting people aged over 65 to
participate in community activities:
... the acquisition of blindness or vision loss is almost
always a very traumatic and distressing event, and for people over 65 who
become blind or acquire vision loss the opportunity again to feel that they are
getting back into the community—either through paid employment, through
training or through volunteering—is a huge part of the rehabilitation and
recovery process, and of the reclamation of a sense of dignity and self-worth.
Submitters also expressed concern that people who are blind or have
vision impairment and who may be eligible for the NDIS face barriers to
accessing NDIS support, such as lack of information and documentation in
accessible formats such as braille, large print and e-text.
Vision Australia submitted:
There must therefore be a recognition that not all people who
are blind or have low vision are able to participate in the NDIS, even though
they are eligible to do so. This non-participation is through no fault of their
own, but results from barriers that could and should be removed, and which so
far remain largely unaddressed. People should not be disadvantaged if they are
unable to participate in the NDIS because of a systemic failure to provide necessary
information and documentation in formats that people who are blind or have low
These submitters recommended that the mobility allowance remain in place
for people who are ineligible for the NDIS, choose not to participate in the
NDIS, or who face barriers in accessing the NDIS.
The department noted that individuals who would be ineligible for
continuity of support arrangements or the NDIS would have access to a range of
other supports, including:
exempt purchase of cars for work use, where the individual has a disability
affecting them to the extent they cannot use public transport;
Employment Assistance Fund, providing financial assistance for people with
disability or their workforce modification equipment or services;
services, through jobactive, Disability Employment Services and the Community
Development Program assisting job seekers (including those with disability)
become job ready and find work, including through providing wage subsidies;
Australian Apprentice Wage Support Program, providing wage and mentoring
support for the employers hiring apprentices and trainees with disability; and
- State and
territory transport, vehicle modification and parking subsidies.
Representatives from the department told the committee that in addition
to these supports, Commonwealth, state and territory governments have agreed
... work in a much more focused way to ensure that universal
services and other supports are providing the supports and access, as they are obliged
and are meant to do, for people with disability. That includes other
Commonwealth services and systems as well as state governments.
Equity of funding under the NDIS
Submitters expressed concern that recipients of the mobility allowance who
are eligible for the NDIS may be 'worse off' and receive less transport support
when they transition to the NDIS.
For example, the NSW Council of Social Service (NCOSS) submitted that the
proposed rates of transport support offered under the NDIS are 'manifestly
inadequate compared to the transport costs faced by many people with
Some submitters also expressed concern about the level of funding for
transport support under the NDIS, and the way it has been implemented at trial
People with Disability Australia submitted that:
Feedback we have received is that during the planning
process, planners are not encouraging participants to include transport
assistance or do not adequately calculate the level of transport support needed.
Submitters also highlighted that the current rates of mobility allowance
and NDIS transport support do not cover the real cost of transport for people
with disability, who rely on additional supplements from state and territory
based taxi subsidy schemes. These submitters expressed concern that some state
and territory taxi subsidy schemes are changing their eligibility to exclude
NDIS participants, which may result in a funding shortfall.
Table 2.1 outlines the current rates of mobility allowance and
relevant eligibility criteria. Table 2.2 outlines the expected levels of
transport support under the NDIS.
Table 2.1 – Current rates of mobility allowance
Per year (approx.)
Do paid or voluntary work, are
self-employed, undertake vocational training or independent living or life
skills training, or any combination of these for at least 32 hours every 4
weeks on a continuing basis
Look for work under an agreement
with an Employment Services Provider
Participate in a Disability
Management Service program with a Disability Employment Services provider, or
Get Newstart Allowance, Youth
Allowance or Austudy and meet the Mutual Obligation
Get Disability Support Pension,
Parenting Payment, Newstart Allowance or Youth Allowance as a job seeker, and
Work for 15 hours or more a week
on wages that are at, or above, the relevant minimum wage, or
Work for 15 hours or more a week
on productivity based wages under the Supported Wage System, or
Look for work 15 hours or more a
week under an agreement with an Employment Services Provider
Source: Department of Human
Services, Mobility Allowance – Payment rates, https://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services/centrelink/mobility-allowance
(accessed 15 November 2016).
Table 2.2 – Expected levels of transport support under the NDIS
Up to $1,750
Participants who are not working,
studying or attending day programs but are seeking to enhance their community
Up to $2,625
Participants who are currently
working or studying part-time (up to 15 hours a week), participating in day
programs and for other social, recreational or leisure activities.
Up to $3,456
Participants who are currently
working, looking for work, or studying, at least 15 hours a week, and are
unable to use public transport because of their disability.
Participants can receive
higher funding if the participant has supports (mainstream, informal or
funded) in their plan that enables their participation in employment.
Source: NDIS, Participant
transport funding information, https://www.ndis.gov.au/document/participant-transport-funding-informati.html
(accessed 15 November 2016).
Representatives from the department told the committee that the criteria
and levels of transport support under the NDIS are 'broadly aligned' with
mobility allowance. The department emphasised that where transport funding is
deemed to be 'reasonable and necessary', the eligibility criteria under the
NDIS is similar, and in some cases 'more generous' than mobility allowance:
In relation to NDIS and transport funding, like all
participants plans, it is based on an individualised funding package and what
is reasonable and necessary for that individual. What the NDIS has broadly done
as a form of guidance is determine some general levels of types of transport
support that it would provide. They are broadly aligned—they are certainly
consistent—with, if not slightly more generous than, current mobility allowance
The department also noted that under the NDIS, participants would have
more flexibility to adjust their levels of transport support to suit their
... once a participant's package is approved and it may have a
component for transport in that, the participant then has flexibility about how
they use the funding in their package. So, if they had a particular need at a
particular time, they could actually draw on the funding in their package to
pay more for transport or less for transport. So it is quite flexible in that
Changes to qualifying activities
Some submitters expressed concern about the proposed removal of
volunteering, job search activities and vocational rehabilitation activities
from the list of qualifying activities for mobility allowance.
NCOSS highlighted that, in particular, volunteering and job search activities:
... play an important role in preparing people with disability
for economic and workforce participation, particularly given that people with disability
are almost twice as likely than the general population to be unemployed.
These submitters recommended that the current list of qualifying
activities for mobility allowance be maintained.
National Disability Services expressed particular concern about the
impact on people accessing the Disability Employment Services (DES) program,
'which assists people with disability to gain and maintain employment in
Similarly, the Australian Network on Disability noted that it was not clear how
the change in eligibility would impact on a person participating in its Positive
Action towards Career Engagement (PACE) program which is neither paid
employment or vocational training, but 'clearly provide pathways to employment'.
The Minister stated when introducing the Bill that under current
... Mobility Allowance is a very broad program which is not
particularly well targeted. The payment has not led to any significant increase
in the workforce participation of recipients. This is partly because, despite its
policy objectives, there is no requirement for Mobility Allowance payments to
actually be spent on transport needs or in ways that directly assist a
recipient's workforce participation.
The department noted that of current mobility allowance recipients, the
majority are engaged in employment: 79 per cent in employment, 7 per cent in
job search activities and 11 per cent in volunteering roles.
Representatives from the department told the committee that the proposed
change in qualifying activities intends to more closely align mobility
... its original purpose, which is to support the person in an
activity that will further their chances of getting work around training or
Under the current arrangements, a person who is qualified for mobility
allowance can receive a 12 week 'continuation period', during which they may
continue to receive a payment while not participating in a qualifying activity.
A number of submitters expressed concern about the reduction of the
continuation period from 12 weeks to 4 weeks, and recommended that the 12 week
continuation period be maintained.
In particular, submitters highlighted that people who are blind or have
vision impairment would be adversely affected by the change, as they generally
take longer to find work.
These submitters noted Vision Australia research that indicates that people who
are blind or have vision impairment already have high rates of unemployment
(around 58 per cent). The Australian Blindness Forum suggested that anecdotally
the percentage may be around 70 per cent unemployment and highlights:
... the need to ensure people who are blind or vision impaired
and who are in paid employment (or a qualifying activity) are provided as much
support as possible to continue in that employment ... To lose the Mobility
Allowance after only 4 weeks of not being engaged in a qualifying activity will
have an enormous impact on an individual's ability to continue to find work.
The department submitted that under current arrangements:
The existence of the 12 week continuation period has not led
to any appreciable increase in the level of workforce participation of Mobility
Representatives from the department further noted that:
... the assumption underpinning the change is not that there
are going to be fewer people having a grace period; it is just that people will
only be paid for fewer weeks. The assumption is that it is not mak[ing] a big
difference to whether people reconnect with another activity at the moment, so
the numbers will be the same but, instead of getting paid for 12 weeks while
not undertaking an activity, they will get paid for only four weeks while not
undertaking an activity.
Mobility allowance advance
Under current arrangements, recipients of mobility allowance may qualify
for the mobility allowance advance if the Secretary of the department is
satisfied that the person will continue to be qualified for mobility allowance
for at least 26 weeks.
The National Welfare Rights Network (NWRN) supported retaining the 6 month
mobility allowance advance.
... there is merit in exploring this as an option for the NDIS
scheme, if not available. The ability to access funding in advance may help
achieve the NDIS' wider goals, including individual choice and control, by
giving the individual more ability to bargain with providers to meet their
transport needs at the lowest cost.
The department submitted that the mobility allowance advance:
... is intended to assist recipients with any large or upfront
transport-related costs associated with undertaking qualifying activities.
Unlike advances for other income support and family assistance payments, the
Mobility Allowance advance is not intended to be used for general costs of
living expenses and is not made on the basis of hardship. There is no
assessment made of a person's ability to pay back the advance and there is no
discretion to change the rate of repayment.
The department further noted 'hardship is unlikely to be an issue' as a
result of the removal of the allowance, given that:
90 per cent of Mobility Allowance recipients are also
receiving another income support payment and will continue to have access to
advance payments under their primary payment. The remaining 10 per cent have
other means of support which preclude them from receiving a means-tested income
support payment ...
The committee acknowledges concerns about the lack of detail on
long-term continuity of support arrangements for current mobility allowance
recipients. The committee notes that the department is working to develop
long-term arrangements, consistent with the Australian Government's commitment
to provide continuity of support for people aged over 65 years of age.
The committee acknowledges the particular concerns about what supports
will be available to people aged over 65 who will not be eligible for the NDIS,
particularly those people who are blind or have vision impairment, once the
mobility allowance ceases on 1 July 2020. The committee is satisfied that there
are a number of programs available at the Commonwealth and state level to
continue to assist these individuals.
The committee acknowledges concerns from some submitters about the level
of funding available for transport support under the NDIS. The committee notes
that the criteria and funding levels between the NDIS and mobility allowance
are equivalent, particularly at the higher levels.
The committee also acknowledges concerns about the proposed changes to
the qualifying activities for mobility allowance. The committee agrees that these
changes would realign the mobility allowance to its original purpose to support
workforce participation. The committee further notes that the majority of
current mobility allowance recipients are engaged in some form of employment
The committee notes the support from some submitters and witnesses for
maintaining the continuation period for 12 weeks. The committee acknowledges
evidence from the department that there is no evidence to suggest that the
current length of the continuation period results in greater workforce
The committee also notes that few submitters commented on the removal of
the mobility allowance advance. The committee acknowledges that this change is
unlikely to result in hardship, as 90 per cent of mobility allowance recipients
have access to advance payments through their income support payments.
Overall, the committee agrees that the proposed measures outlined in the
Bill would better target the mobility allowance to its original purpose, and support
the transition of mobility allowance to the NDIS. The committee agrees that
this would help to ensure that the NDIS will be the main program of support for
people with a disability who need assistance to enable them to fully engage in
the workforce and other economic activities.
The committee recommends that the Bill be passed.
Senator Jonathon Duniam
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