Financial counsellors concerned about changes to the Disability Support Pension

The Financial and Consumer Rights Council (FCRC), peak body for financial counsellors in Victoria, has expressed deep concern at the Federal Government’s response to the McClure Report, which suggests that to assist the Federal Government’s reduction of spending on ‘welfare’, there will be an alteration in the way the Disability Support Pension is allocated.

Acting Executive Officer, Bernadette Pasco said, “Financial counsellors who provide information, support and advocacy to people in financial difficulty and assist many people in receipt of the Disability Support Pension, know that the current tests to receive this payment are already stringent, with many individuals unable to access the payment.   This causes financial difficulty and often an exacerbation of their health status.

“The system is difficult to navigate and many aspects of it are misunderstood by both the person requiring the payment and those giving medical evidence to support a claim, often resulting in a non-payment.”

The McClure report recommends that the Disability Support Payment be renamed the ‘Supported Living Pension’. To retain this pension, the person will need to be deemed to be unable to work for more than eight hours and recipients need to demonstrate that their disability will last for more than five years.

“It is unclear what is meant by ‘work’ , and there are fears among financial counsellors that where a client may be capable of some activities in the home, such as gardening or cleaning, that this may be viewed as capacity to work and exclude people in real need of this payment to provide a means to live. These people will then be pushed onto Newstart payments with job search requirements on the open job market.”  said Ms Pasco.

As the state peak body, FCRC frequently hears that financial counsellors see many people with illness where abilities are spasmodically limited or are seriously impacted by mental illness or addictions. Frequently these people are not eligible even though they have no capacity to work, often for many years.

“The processes of job capacity assessment are already challenging with frequent misconceptions and lack of understanding of impacts of illness on individuals.

“Implementation of the recommendations of this report will push people who are frequently marginalised and have limited, fluctuating or reduced ability into further disadvantage.” Said Ms Pasco

It is FCRC’s view that the requirements to seek work in the open job market will promote an increase in mental health issues, pressure on families and individuals; further reduction in income and inability to find work will push more people into situations of homelessness.