Budget says disability pensioners aged under 35 must take part in programs if they are able to work more than eight hours a week
Some people with disabilities will be made to participate in programs such as Work for the Dole or face having their pensions docked under changes to the scheme in the Abbott government’s first budget.
People under 35 on the Disability Support Pension (DSP) will have to take part in compulsory programs if they are deemed to be able to work more than eight hours a week and those who became eligible for the payments between 2008 and 2011 will have their cases reviewed.
The Veterans’ Incapacity Payments are also in the government’s sights with yearly reviews introduced for recipients. More than $50m will be taken from organisations that were supposed to be established to help people with severe mental disabilities and limits will be put on how much a DSP recipient can travel overseas with further changes flagged.
The review of DSP cases will cost $46.4m over five years and will exempt those as assessed at being able to work less than eight hours per week.
“People with a severe or manifest disability will not be reassessed,” the Social Services budget papers said.
“People who have some capacity to work now or in the future will be helped to do this through program, services and activities.”
The government will introduce compulsory participation plans for people with disabilities who are under 35 and have been assessed as able to work eight hours a week. They will have to take part in programs such as Work for the Dole, job search, work experience and education and training.
There will be sanctions if they do not take part in the programs.
People with disabilities who are on the pension and travel overseas will be financially penalised if they spend more than four weeks of the year out of the country. They will not be paid the DSP while overseas though exceptions can be made for terminally ill people or people assessed as having “severe impairment”.
The government has estimated it will save $12.7m by ordering medical specialists to review veterans who are receiving military compensation payments for economic loss because of an inability, or reduced ability, to work because of injury or illness. The reviews will take place every 12 months.
The government has deferred the establishment of 13 Partners in Recovery organisations which help people with severe mental illness by coordinating clinical, housing, education, employment, income and disability services. Forty-eight of the organisations have already been established and the budget papers said the effectiveness of them and their interaction with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) would be assessed.
The $53.8m saved from deferring the establishment of the organisations will be invested in the Medical Research Future Fund.
The government has been signalling changes to the DSP for months and in January the prime minister, Tony Abbott, spoke about the advantages of moving people from the DSP to Newstart.
“At least once they move on to Newstart there are certain expectations on people in terms of going out and looking for work.
“This is one of the reasons why we do have to provide people with support to get off the disability pension and back into the workforce because in the end we don’t do anyone any favours if we leave them on a pension when we could have them making the most of their potential,” he told Ray Hadley on his radio program.
“Look … derive a large sense of our self-worth, our sense of identity from the work that we do and if you for whatever reason are not working almost invariably the best thing we can do for you is get you back into the workforce as quickly as possible.”