Federal Budget spares NDIS, but tough on DSP

The NDIS has survived a tough Federal Budget without a funding cut or changed timeline; but pressure on Disability Support Pension (DSP) recipients will increase and the Budget fails to invest the extra funding needed to support DSP recipients to work.

From September 2017, all pensions, including the DSP and Carer Payment, will be indexed against CPI rather than Male Total Average Weekly Earnings. This will result in a lower annual rate of pension growth.

DSP recipients under 35 years who have an assessed work capacity of at least 8 hours a week and a participation plan will be subject to compulsory activity requirements, such as participating in a disability employment program or education and training.

DSP recipients under 35 years who were granted DSP between 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2011 will be reviewed (using the revised Disability Impairment Tables introduced in January 2012). People granted DSP before January 2008 or who have a severe impairment with a work capacity assessment of less than eight hours a week will be exempt.

A tender will be conducted for the 47 per cent of Disability Management Services (DMS) currently delivered by CRS Australia, all other DMS contracts are extended to March 2018.

The Commonwealth provides grants to State and Territory governments. In 2014-15 it will provide a total of $1.4 billion, which represents a 4.82% increase on the previous year.

One savings measure announced in the Budget is a reduction in the number of Human Rights Commissioners by one. Also, implementing an election commitment, the Government will fund 150 Young Carer Bursaries to assist young carers to complete their studies. Access to them will be means tested and the largest will be worth $10,000 per year for three years. This year's final grants round for the National Respite for Carers program, worth $7.7 million, will not proceed.

The Government has allocated money to establish the Disability and Carers Industry Advisory Council to provide policy advice. It will include a focus on employment.

The roll-out of the remaining 13 Partners in Recovery organisations will be deferred for two years. The existing 48 organisations will continue to provide services to people who have a severe and persistent mental illness.

The Government has struggled to sell the benefits of the Budget and has been facing a barrage of complaints about some of the proposed changes. Unfortunately there has been a lot of misinformation in the community, especially around the numbers of people on the Disability Support Pension (DSP).

In reality, the proportion of people on the DSP has been steady over the past decade. Recent reports have focussed on the increase of the numbers on the DSP, without looking at the larger increase in Australia’s population.

It is important to note that nothing has changed yet as the Budget is yet to pass through parliament. Reaction from the Labour and other members of the parliament may mean that some of the proposed budget items may not get through. The Government will put the changes in front of the parliament in the next month or so.

ABC Ramp Up has an excellent article that goes into further detail on the Budget at www.abc.net.au/rampup/articles/2014/05/15/4004641.htm.