New Report Highlights Barriers Indigenous Australians Face in Accessing Disability Income Support

A new report by Dr Karen Soldatic and Dr Michelle Fitts sheds light on the impact of changes to the Disability Support Pension’s (DSP) eligibility criteria and assessment process to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians with disability.

The research finds that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians living with disability experience several barriers to fulfilling the eligibility criteria and assessment requirements including, but not limited to, increased financial costs and transportation limitations. In addition, applicants in the study required significant support and assistance with advocating their eligibility for the DSP, understanding the paperwork and attending appointments. Often, family members, non-medical service providers and medical practitioners took on this advocacy role which was outside the expected responsibilities for service providers and medical practitioners.

Other challenges arose in communicating with and receiving support from Centrelink, meeting DSP medical requirements due to stricter criteria and changed processes, and meeting the Newstart Allowance’s reporting and work activity requirements while awaiting the outcome of the DSP application.

Drawing on extensive research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, medical practitioners and non-medical service providers, Dr Soldatic and Dr Fitts recommend:

  • Greater community outreach and information dissemination by Centrelink staff about the Disability Support Pension, eligibility criteria and amendments to the application process
  • Coordinated support during the application process
  • Minimum standards for application processing timeframes
  • Comprehensive outcome information and support for applicants following an unsuccessful claim for the DSP
  • Exempting individuals applying for the DSP from Newstart Allowance reporting and work activities
  • Supporting individuals to undertake a range of activities for the community benefit beyond that of merely labour market related activities.

The ‘At what cost?’ Indigenous Australians’ experiences of applying for disability income support (Disability Support Pension) PDF, 1606.57 KB report comes out of a three-year national project, Disability Income Reform and Regional Australia: The Lived Experience for Indigenous Australians with Disabilities, which is funded by the Australian Research Council. The project aims to investigate the ways in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians living with disabilities and their families respond to the challenges imposed by national disability income reform and rapid regional economic restructuring.

Posted: 13 November 2018.