Submission to help people with disability

Submission to help people with disability

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Poor decision-making by Centrelink and unnecessary barriers are preventing people with significant disability from accessing the disability support pension (DSP).

The high set aside rates for decisions at all stages of appeal demonstrate that many people who should be receiving DSP are missing out on their correct entitlements for significant periods of time.

These issues are outlined in Victoria Legal Aid’s recent submission to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit Inquiry into the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO)’s report, Qualifying for the Disability Support Pension.

Victoria Legal Aid is the leading provider of legal services to Victorians with disabilities and mental illness, with more than 21,560 clients last financial year – or 26 per cent – disclosing that they fall within this category.

Director Civil Justice, Access and Equity Dan Nicholson says Victoria Legal Aid assists many people whose claims for the DSP have been rejected.

‘Often these clients present with significant and acute distress due to the impact of their condition, frustration and confusion about the reasons for their rejection, Dan said.

‘Better information being given to applicants, and better decision-making by Centrelink at an earlier stage would reduce unnecessary hardship to people experiencing disability and would reduce costs to the community.’

Victoria Legal Aid’s recommendations aim to ensure people with disabilities, who meet the eligibility requirements for the DSP, are assessed accurately and efficiently.

In 2011 the Commonwealth government introduced the program of support requirement for the DSP.

‘The program of support requirements affects many of the DSP appeals we assist — there is a lack of awareness about the program, the requirements and exemptions,’ Dan said.

‘Many applicants for the DSP are required to spend 18 months completing programs of support from which no benefit can be obtained. This question of benefit, or whether the person has a clear inability to work, is not assessed as part of the application process for the DSP.

‘Public funds would be better used for those who have some prospect of benefitting from these programs.’

The submission highlights the lack of information available to DSP applications.

‘It is vital Centrelink offer more timely, up-to-date and easy to understand information about the eligibility criteria, application and appeal process and reasons for rejections,’ Dan said.  

‘The lack of information available to DSP applications leads to unworthy claims being lodged, rejected and appealed to the frustration of applications and at a considerable expense to both Centrelink and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.’

In 2015–16, Victoria Legal Aid’s Commonwealth Entitlement’s team provided legal advice on 2,090 occasions in relation to Centrelink matters.

Following this submission, Victoria Legal Aid provided evidence before the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit today, Wednesday 30 November, in Canberra.

Victoria Legal Aid’s submission details five key principles that should inform Centrelink decision-making in relation to the DSP.

Victoria Legal Aid’s five key principles for Centrelink decision-making in relation to the disability support pension   

  • make the correct decision at the earliest stage possible
  • ensure applications and appeals are determined in a manner consistent with case law, policy and subordinate legislation
  • provide applicants with sufficient information about the reasons for a decision and the criteria referred to by the decision-maker
  • a failure to grant the DSP to an eligible recipient is as egregious an administrative failure as the incorrect grant of DSP to an ineligible recipient
  • people with disabilities who have a clear inability to work should not be required to attend a program to test their capacity to work.

About the inquiry

The Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit is conducting an inquiry into the Auditor-General’s report Qualifying for the Disability Support Pension.

Read our submission

Read our Qualifying for the Disability Support Pension – Joint Committee of Public Accounts Inquiry submission.

Applying for a disability support pension

Read our information about applying for a disability support pension

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