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Australians with a Disability Harmed and Neglected by Centrelink

The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) today released a comprehensive report on the harm caused to individuals with disabilities by their interaction with Centrelink’s Disability Support Pension (DSP) application and review processes. The Report follows a recent appearance before the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs where AFDO gave evidence on:

  • The alarming decrease of access to the Disability Support Pension

  • The onerous and burdensome nature of the application process

  • A review process where people with disabilities have to fund their own legal supports.

The resulting report brings to light the systemic failures of the Disability Support Pension application and review processes. It shows how these failures harm people with disability and why such harm constitutes institutional neglect and abuse. The right to social protection such as the DSP enables people to participate in the life of the community and should not be considered welfare. It is a crucial economic mechanism enabling people with disabilities to participate as equal citizens in society. As of March 2021, 376,287 people have been moved from the DSP onto the Jobseeker Allowance. The two largest groups represented in that number are people with chronic illness (e.g., cancer, neurodegenerative illness) and people with psychosocial impairment. Moving people with disabilities onto the lower rate of Jobseeker, and the subsequent loss of other supports such as travel concessions and access to affordable medications causes a drastic reduction in living standards and opportunity to participate in the community. The areas of interaction with Centrelink identified as causing harm are:

  1. Burdensome nature of proving disability

  2. Inadequate accessibility arrangements (no provision of Auslan, etc.)

  3. The complexity of navigating Centrelink processes

  4. The impact of ineligibility on people with disability

  5. The experience of users seeking administrative justice (making complaints and seeking reviews of decisions)

AFDO maintains every Australian with a disability should have fair and equal access to the DSP, without risk. According to AFDO’s CEO, Ross Joyce, ‘what we are seeing instead is a dramatic reduction in access to the DSP, effectively relegating people to unrelenting poverty’. The current policy and processes are inconsistent, opaque and leave both Centrelink and Australians with disabilities in unhealthy opposition to each other. To protect people with disabilities AFDO recommends the Government commit to an immediate and comprehensive review of the Disability Support Pension.

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