In May 2021 the Senate referred an inquiry into the purpose, intent and adequacy of the Disability Support Pension (DSP) to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee. The Committee has now reported back on the Inquiry. Here’s what SSRV called for and what the report recommended.
You can read the full report here.
How was SSRV involved?
We knew we wanted to be a part of the inquiry process right from the outset. The DSP is such a big part of the work SSRV does – in fact, it’s the single biggest issue people call us about – and we knew our expertise and experience, and that of our clients would be incredibly valuable to the Committee.
Led by our DSP Help Project, SSRV developed a submission to the Inquiry highlighting issues in three main areas:
1. The DSP eligibility criteria and the challenges this creates for people living with disability trying to access income support.
2. Issues people have understanding the DSP eligibility criteria and how this is communicated to applicants and those supporting them, and in particular the challenges this creates when applicants seek to gather medical evidence to support their application.
3. Issues with how the DSP is administered, including challenging appeals processes and delays in processing applications.
Our submission16 recommendations. Notably, SSRV called for:
· Removing the requirement for conditions to be ‘fully’ diagnosed, treated and stabilised.
· Removing ‘Program of Support’ from the DSP eligibility criteria.
· Reintroducing the ‘Treating Doctor’s Report’ or introducing a similar mechanism to make collecting medical evidence easier.
The DSP Help Project
While the Inquiry was running SSRV was also continuing with our DSP Help Project, using human-centred design and technology to help applicants understand the complex criteria and evidentiary requirements for making a successful DSP application.
In this year of the project our focus was on doctors and other health workers, and designing our resources in way that makes their role in providing suitable medical evidence in support of an application clearer.
The consultation undertaken as part of this project revealed experiences that we felt needed to be shared with the Committee in addition to the Submission described above. SSRV approached the Committee to see if this was possible, then worked with Paper Giant, the service design consultancy working on DSP Help, to develop a supplementary submission. You can read this here (submission 90.1).
What’s in the report?
It is fantastic to see the Committee adopt in substance many of the reforms and recommendations SSRV and the broader sector have been calling for. In particular, the requested reviews of the eligibility criteria are very welcome.
SSRV is also glad to see the contributions of many people we regularly work with featuring so prominently in the report, including Economic Justice Australia’s (EJA) Linda Forbes, Australian Federation of Disability Organisations’ (AFDO) Patrick McGee and SSRV’s own DSP Help Community Lawyer Dermott Williams.
Dermott was invited to participate in one of the Inquiry’s hearings, appearing with Linda Forbes as a representative of an EJA member centre. Dermott used the opportunity to amplify the voices and experiences of DSP applicants trying to access the pension, and highlighted the difficulties they face in accessing clear and complete information about the eligibility criteria they are being assessed on. She also took the opportunity to reiterate key recommendations from SSRV’s submission, including the need to remove ‘Program of Support’ from the eligibility criteria.
SSRV looks forward to seeing the report recommendations actioned and implemented, but anticipates further advocacy work will be required in the coming years to help make the DSP a fairer and easier to access payment. For further information, check out EJA’s media release.
If you need help with the DSP
For assistance in understanding the DSP, gathering evidence and making an application, or appealing a rejection, please visit DSP Help.
If you need legal assistance for the DSP or another social security issue please call.
Individuals – Legal Assistance Line: 03 9481 0355, Monday to Friday, 9am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm.
Workers can phone SSRV’s Worker Help Line: 03 9481 0655, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.