Basis wrong for revamp of Disability Support?

If you’re having the impact of your hearing impairment assessed for social security purposes, you’d expect that assessment to incorporate how much you rely on a hearing aid, and whether the thing is doing you good, right?  So why would a similar assessment for a person with visual impairment not take their spectacles into account?  It’s the type of unevenness that dogs the way the Disability Support Pension is allocated in Australia.

It bares a slightly scary similarity to the way health insurance works in places like Oregon, where, some patients have been refused financial help for medical treatments, but were offered aid to cover their assisted suicides instead.   

Hopefully it never comes to that here in Australia, but reading this article worries me. Reporting that the Disability Support Pension (DSP) is to be allocated on the basis of recipients capability, not inability, it misses the point that all of us are worthy of support because of who we are, not what we can or cannot do. Can ways be found to distribute social security on this basis?

It is now assessed for the utilitarian purpose of simply getting everyone into work – any kind of work – making the disabled less of a financial burden on society.

To be sure, the DSP does need reform, to stop the widespread abuse that’s dogged it for a long time, giving worthy recipients a bad name. To wit, many who have failed to meet criteria for other social security payments have found it easier to get the DSP and stay on it for a long time, as a prime source of income.

The last review happened 18 years ago.  

Now, the public largely doesn’t understand that the pension can be legitimately drawn to help cover the considerable costs arising from managing disabilities. Well tageted financial help should encourage we people with disabilities to enjoy our lives with fewer  costs increasing the risk of us believing that life is all too much, a burden. In a world that permits euthanasia, real financial hardship could have tragic consequences.

This is especially true for those with depression and anxiety disorders, the fastest growing group of claimants of the DSP – and the ones most vulnerable to legalised euthanasia and assisted suicide

Watch this space to see how the changes are progressing, and add tell us your experiences and thoughts on the impact of social security on the dignity of life

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About Daniel

I am a man with a disability living in Canberra, Australia. I'm passionate about the lives of people with disabilities - our joys, achievements, sorrows and setbacks. I want to encourage the people who support and love us, and stand firmly against obstacles placed in our way that may even threaten our very existence.
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2 Responses to Basis wrong for revamp of Disability Support?

  1. Mishka says:

    The abuse and inconsistencies of the system is quite appalling in my experience. I’ve known a couple of people who qualified for the DSP or sickness allowance on the basis of “depression” but who, for example, enjoyed a full-time physically-demanding volunteer job over the course of a number of years. They give genuine recipients a very bad name, as you say. On the other side of the coin, I’ve been told by my specialist that my auto-immune disease, even at its worst, would never be considered sufficient to claim the DSP because “you can walk”, as if that were the sole criterion!

    “Impairment tables” attempt to quantify what is, to a large extent, a quality of life assessment, and they encourage people to magnify impairments or to do less in order to receive the support they need. I, for one, choose to deal with pain by keeping busy and active as best I can, but because I stay active many assume that I don’t need help or support. In the same way, social security punishes those who live their lives with optimism, often denying them the support they need to maintain a positive outlook. The better you cope, the less you can count on support, and this in effect creates an incentive for depression and inertia. I don’t claim to have any solutions, but the implications are very worrying….

    • Daniel says:

      Hi Mishka,

      You sum up the way that diminishing support also diminishes morale really well. I hope you will share more of your first-hand experiences as time goes by!

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