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Travelling to another country when on the Disability Support Pension

 There is a rule for how long a person can travel to another country and still get paid the disability pension.

This is called ‘portability’.

The Government wants to change the rule.

The government wants to limit the time a person can be in another country and paid the disability pension to 28 days for every 12 month period.

The government is currently asking the Commonwealth parliament to approve this rule change.

What is the current portability rule?

A person will continue to be paid the disability pension when in another country for a time limit of 6 weeks.

There are exceptions to the rule.

Some people who get the disability pension can stay in another country and be paid the disability pension without any time limit.

This is called ‘unlimited portability’.

People who get the DSP are eligible for unlimited portability if they are;

  • assessed as having a severe impairment and no future work capacity,
  • terminally ill,
  • paid under Australia’s international social security agreements and assessed as severely disabled, or
  • assessed as manifestly eligible for the disability pension.

The government is not changing these exceptions to the rule.

What does this mean for people with intellectual disability?

A person with intellectual disability manifestly qualifies for the disability pension if they have an IQ of less than 70.

A person who manifestly qualifies for the disability pension meets the eligibility for unlimited portability of their pension, without need for assessment of their impairment or work capacity.

People with intellectual disability and their families can plan overseas travel knowing that pension eligibility and payments will continue without change.

DSP changes 2014

In the 2014 Commonwealth Budget the Australian Government announced a number of changes that affected people who receive the Disability Support Pension (DSP).
At the time we received a number of calls from people concerned that their entitlement to the DSP would be directly affected. With very good assistance from Minister Andrews’ office and the Department of Social Services we issued a Fact Sheet which clarified the situation for people with intellectual disability whose disability (and entitlement to the DSP) is ‘MANIFEST’.
The Department has now issued 2 fact sheets which provide clear information on:

  • Review of eligibility of people on the DSP
  • Participation requirements for people on the DSP

It is important to note that that people with intellectual disability who are manifest (IQ score of less than 70) will not have their DSP eligibility reviewed nor will they have compulsory participation requirements. The attached fact sheets from the Department of Social Service (DSS) make this situation very clear.”

What to do if you are told you DSP will be reviewed or that you have participation requirements!

If you are a person with intellectual disability and have a manifest DSP (or believe you are manifest) and you receive a review letter from DSS, or are told by a Centrelink officer that you have participation requirements – show them a copy of the fact sheet. And let us know so that we can let Centrelink know and they want to ensure their systems are working for people with intellectual disability.

dsp@inclusionaustralia.org.au                       02 6296 4400

DSS DSP Fact Sheets:

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Who am I?

Who am I?

Who am I, is a very loaded and contested question for people with disability. A question of identity.

For decades people with disability have had this personal question answered by others. Their identity as a person with disability has been described and viewed by people without a disability. I was prompted to think about this by Andrew Solomon as I read his book, Far from the Tree. An inquiry into identity, or more rightly identities; how some children are born with an identity that sharply contrasts with the identity of their parents, or the identity that their parents wish for them.

Andrew Solomon looks at groups of people who fall ‘far from the family tree’ and how they relate to their families and the community. The groups that he looks at include people with Down Syndrome, people who are deaf, people of short stature and people with multiple disabilities. A fascinating book from a man who himself fell ‘far from his family tree’.

Andrew Solomon uses the concepts of vertical identity and horizontal identity as the framework for his discussion, the vertical being the family, the horizontal being the person’s peer group – those others who they identify with as being members of their community.

Identity whether defined by us or others is closely linked to the language we use to describe ourselves or others; it is language which includes, affirms my identity as a member of my community or excludes me from my community by segregating me or hiding me from public view.

Over the last 10 years identity has become a crucial issue for people with disability as the conceptualisation of disability as a medical condition to be fixed/cured was challenged by the social model of disability which attempted to describe a person with disability as an interaction between the disabling aspects of society and the impairment of the person. The emphasis became not on the person with disability but on society and the identities of people with disability became subsumed under a generic catchall ‘people with disabilities’ as the focus was on society. This strong reaction to the medical approach was needed to bring about the conceptual change that was necessary but in the creation of the vertical ‘disability’ identity people lost the horizontal connection with their peer group, with people who have the same distinct life experiences as themselves.

The social model of disability is now being challenged by the human rights framework that is asserted by all people who are ‘different’. Whether it is a question of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc, the right to be different and to be accepted as different (no matter how far you fall from the tree) is a dominant movement within our society and people with all types of disability are members of the movement, the right to be different.

When ‘disability’ becomes the dominant identity, as opposed to a person with Down Syndrome or a person with autism, what happens is that they become invisible. Disability is represented by the articulate person in a wheelchair, the media get comment from the blind person who wears a suit. The come to represent all people with disability and other groups become invisible. This is not to say that people in wheelchairs or suits do not have a role or right to speak but that right only extends to their experience as a person who uses a wheelchair or who is blind. A person with Down Syndrome, for example, has a right to speak on their own behalf about their life experiences.

The language of rights is different to the language of the medical or the social. Discrimination is experienced in the real lives of people. The experience of discrimination is personal and can only really be shared by people who have the same expectations, perceptions placed on them by others. Discrimination can not be defined or explained by medical terminology or broad social references only by the language of lived experience. As a community it is our responsibility to listen.

The use of old medical and social language will not be easily replaced. Just as there was not an acceptance of the change from medical identities to social identity the assertion of a right to define my own identity will be resisted by those who are unable to accept that people with disability have a unique voice or who will be unable to reliquish the power that comes with controlling the identities of others.

Just as homosexuality is no longer defined as a mental illness people with disability must not be defined as ‘diagnostic’ groups; just as all people with a different sexual orientation are not longer defined as being part of a generic homosexual/gay group but as as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transexual, people with disability must be defined by their lived experience as a person who is blind, as a person who uses a wheelchair, as a person living with intellectual disability. (1)

It may be convenient for the media and governments to see people with many disabilities as a homogenous group (or to narrow them down into acceptable social groups) but this is not their decision to make and we must give all peoples the right to define ourselves and who we identify with. How we measure the distance we ‘fall from the tree’ and who we ‘fall with’ is up to us to identify with.

Footnote:

(1)  the analogy of race could also be used, from immigrant, to ethnic, to Greek-Australian; as the lived experience of different groups is not identical. There will be some similarities but there will also be differences and within a rights framework these must be acknowledged.

Mark Pattison

Executive Director

Inclusion International

Editorial from Interaction Volume 24 Issue 4 – subscribe

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Minister Fifield must reward genuine effort not failure

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Real Businesses Pay Real Wages. 

Minister Fifield must reward genuine effort not failure. 

The announcement by Minister Fifield of an additional $173 million to support employees get fair wages in Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) is welcomed as a step forward by Inclusion Australia.

The announcement, however, does not resolve serious concerns about the treatment of employees with intellectual disability, nor the ongoing viability of ADEs.

We already have a productivity based wage assessment

The announcement fails to recognise that a fair productivity based award wage tool already exists – i.e. Supported Wage System (SWS).

The SWS is recognised by the industrial relations system; the Australian Human Rights Commission, the High and Federal Courts, people with disability and their representative organisations.

The only group to refuse to acknowledge the SWS has been National Disability Services (NDS) representing ADEs. A refusal without valid reason.

The question must be asked; why is Minister Fifield supporting the position of NDS when the evidence and support for the SWS is substantial? When is the Minister going to stand up for people with disabilities and not service providers with a history of discriminating against people with disabilities?

Our support for funding assistance is based on implementing the SWS

Inclusion Australia has repeatedly recognised that fair wages determined by SWS would increase wage costs for ADEs, and that the Commonwealth should provide temporary funding to assist ADEs make the transition.

It is concerning however that the Minister has agreed to pay this cost without requiring that wages are determined by the SWS.

The “future” productivity wage assessment tool being proposed is “unknown”. The refusal to accept the SWS opens the door for ADEs to argue for a wage assessment tool that once again unfairly discounts award wages. A risk which is not necessary.

 

Where is the funding for transition to work and open employment support services?

The Minister in the Australian (21/8/14) says that the government is committed to finding ways to increase employment opportunities for people with disability in the open workforce.

Where is the funding to support this commitment. There are thousands of young people with intellectual disability that can, with the right support, move from school to the open labour market. But specialist transition-to-work and open employment support is severely limited.

Inclusion Australia has proposed, based on current Australian best practise) the development of a national system of transition to work and open employment support for people with significant intellectual disability. What is needed is a funding commitment to make this happen.

The Minister must not reward failure or incompetence

The Minister must address the genuine efforts being made by ADEs under the ’10 Year Vision for Supported Employment’. ADEs that pay their employees using SWS must not be disadvantaged for doing the right thing.

For decades the Australian government has attempted to make a number of ADEs businesses by ‘throwing money’ at them. Today’s funding announcement must not be another exercise of propping up unviable businesses.

Inclusion Australia does not wish ADEs to close. Where ADEs are viable businesses paying real wages they must be supported to continue to provide employment to people with intellectual disability. Where ADEs are not viable the Commonwealth government must consider the option of those services becoming day services so that they can continue  to support people with disability.

The Australian government’s ’10 Year Vision for Supported Employment’ is now in its 3rd year. Inclusion Australia calls on Minister Fifield to release a progress report to demonstrate that this new funding will build on progress.

Real Businesses Pay Real Wages

Real Businesses Pay Real Wages – Wake Up! It’s a reality!

A response to Minister Mitch Fifield

Minister Fifield said in his article, Idealism threatens jobs for the disabled, that “accusations that ADEs exploit people with disability is unfair”.

The Federal and High Courts of Australia ruled that 10,000 employees with intellectual disability were disadvantaged by the use of the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT). What is unfair is the Commonwealth’s refusal to accept responsibility for this unfairness and pay fair compensation.

  • There are some ADEs that do pay employees with intellectual disability fair wages based on the Supported Wages System (SWS), and are not exploiting people with disability. 
  • There are employers in the open labour market that employ people with intellectual disability and pay full award wages or wages based on the SWS.
  • Fair wages for people with intellectual disability is a right and a reality. Disability discrimination is unlawful.
  • If some ADEs can pay fair wages based on the SWS and be viable, why can not all ADEs pay fair wages?
  • What is it about the ‘business structure’ of ADEs that they are unable or unwilling to pay fair wages?
  • If there are ADEs paying employees a fair wage using the SWS, why is there a need to develop a new system?

These are the questions that Minister Fifield fails to address in his article.

The application to the AHRC for an exemption to continue to use the unlawful BSWAT was made by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth held consultations with people with disabilities, ADEs, and the advocacy sector. The AHRC also provided several months for people to provide submissions.

When the Australian Human Rights Commission asked for evidence that its decision would make ADEs unviable the AHRC reported that the evidence provided was limited and anecdotal. They made a reasonable determination that the Commonwealth and ADEs should change within a year.

Minister Andrews says that people with disability with capacity should work and reduce their dependence on the Disability Support Pension (DSP). Yet Minister Fifield says that we should see the pension as compensation for work.  Does this mean that the Minister is promoting ADEs as a “work for the pension” scheme? Is not dignity in work all about being paid fairly for work done? How can work be dignified if you are being discriminated?

There are people with disability in ADEs getting real wages, getting a reduced DSP, paying tax and accruing superannuation.

There are people with significant intellectual disability working in open employment on real wages, getting a reduced DSP, paying tax and accruing superannuation.

Minister Fifield,  not for the first time states, “there will always be some people with disability who won’t be able to participate in the open workforce”, and yet he also states, “we must stop limiting people by placing low expectations on them”.

The evidence is very clear that people with significant disability intellectual disability can work in jobs that pay real wages. Statements that place low expectations on the work outcomes for people with intellectual disability are discriminatory and at odds with the aims of Government policy and the NDIS.

The Coalition Government’s “commitment to increasing employment for people with disability in the open workforce” is fine rhetoric but where is the action? Inclusion Australia has set out a detailed submission to the Commonwealth government, based on current Australian best practice, on how to build such a system of support. We know what helps to get people with significant disability into the open workforce. Why is the Commonwealth not contracting for best practice?

Inclusion Australia wants the discrimination to stop (we do not want ADEs to close). We have a fair wage assessment tool in the SWS. We have also proposed that the Commonwealth fund ADEs to assist in making the transition to fair award wages using the SWS. Where transformation is not possible Minister Fifield must support ADEs to become community participation programs and work with real businesses to ensure that individuals with significant disability have real employment support options in the future.

Mark Pattison

Executive Director, Inclusion Australia

mark.pattison@inclusionaustralia.org.au

0407 406 647

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Response to Welfare Reform paper

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Inclusion Australia agrees that the income support system should have a stronger employment focus.
An income support system focused on evidence based employment support can significantly increase employment participation and reduce reliance on income support.

To achieve such change requires an examination of our understanding about capacity to work and employment support needs, and how this relates to achieving paid work which reduces pension reliance.

Current programs and policies are out of step with evidence based practice and are not providing youth with intellectual disability with the opportunity to be included in the open labour market.

Our biggest challenge, however, is to address a culture of low expectations about people with intellectual disability and work.
The current pathway of pension, unemployment and alternative programs needs to shift to a pathway of inclusion, work and wages in the open labour market.

To demonstrate this shift in direction, we feature the stories of two young people with significant intellectual disability and the pathway they took to move from school to paid employment in the open labour market.

These stories illustrate that people with intellectual disability have the capacity to work in the open labour market when provided skilled support. This quality support, however, is currently limited to just a few locations.

It is our submission that the welfare review should set a new direction to progressively build evidence based transition-to-work and open employment support on a national scale for people with intellectual disability.

It is possible to progressively change the current low expectations, low work participation and high reliance on the pension, to a culture where inclusion, work and wages is a common part of the lives of all people with intellectual disability.

Download Inclusion Australia’s full submission

Parliament Human Rights Committee considers BSWAT Bill

The Human Rights Committee of the Australian Parliament has considered the BSWAT Bill currently before the Parliament and found it wanting …

“The committee notes that the scheme provides for the payment of an amount equal to 50 per cent of what a person would have been paid had their wages been assessed only on the productivity component of BSWAT.4 The precise calculation will be set out in rules determined by the minister.5 However, the committee notes that, while the statement of compatibility states that the scheme provides an ‘effective remedy’ for eligible workers,6 it does not provide any substantive analysis of how the scheme payment rates may be regarded, for human rights purposes, as an effective remedy, understood as being fair and reasonable compensation for the breach of human rights suffered by affected individuals as a result of unlawful discrimination.”

Download a copy of the Report

Make a submission to the Senate Community Affairs Committee by 23 July 2014

Choosing Employment – key to economic participation

Inclusion Australia has today released a series of reports on consultations with people with intellectual disability and families about their positive experiences of choosing employment and the barriers that they may have faced:

Part 1.  Inclusion Australia 2014 Employment Survey- Employment Part 1 2014 survey

Part 2. National Forums on employment – Employment Part 2 2014 national forums

Part 3. Forums on the NSW Transition to Work (TTW) program – Employment Part 3 2014 NSW TTW forums

(Appendices – employment outcomes by intellectual disability, Transition to Work open employment outcomes, Disability Employment Service, star ratings)

Inclusion Australia responds to DSP Changes

The issue for Inclusion Australia is that Minister Andrews is focusing on the people with disability and not the system that is supposed to assist people with disability into work.

 Our key points are: 

Talking about people with disability ‘rorting the DSP’ or who ‘should not be on it’ raises the question, if this is the case why did Centrelink put them on the DSP? To get on the DSP a person has to have a medical certificate and also a job classification assessment. If a person ‘passes’ these they get the DSP. The agency that undertakes the assessments is Centrelink so if there is something wrong with the ‘system for getting the DSP’ the fault lies with Centrelink not the person with disability.

The Commonwealth Government must set the example. It is not credible for the Commonwealth Government to say that employers need to employ people with disability when the number of people with disability employed by the Commonwealth has decreased over the last five years. In particular, the Commonwealth must employ people who have a significant disability to demonstrate to medium and large employers what the benefits are and also how to do it.

Where are the jobs? What is the Commonwealth Government doing to create the jobs for people with disability, in particular part-time jobs of between 15 – 30 hours? With a large number of unemployed young people as well as people with disability looking for work where are these jobs today and tomorrow?

The Commonwealth Government spends nearly $1 billion on specialised support for people with disability and yet for every 100 people who go to a specialist provider only about 25 get a job. Specialist providers help people find a job, provide training and keep their job – if the ‘outcome rate (getting a job) is only 25% what hope do people with disability have in getting the right support they need to get into employment?

It is the system that needs to be fixed not people with disability. The focus on people with disability will not decrease the number of people on the DSP, or whatever the benefit is changed to. The number of people unemployed will stay the same.

If the Commonwealth Government is really serious it will demand that the specialist providers it pays $1 Billion to lift their game and get jobs for at least every 50 people with disability who enter their doors!

Mark Pattison

Executive Director
Inclusion Australia (formerly National Council on Intellectual Disability)
0407 406 647