Category: Disability Support Pension (DSP)

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I am here to remind you, not to teach you …

Standing beneath a huge circus tent you have to wonder how they put it up. For someone who struggles with putting up the family tent each Christmas on our annual camping holiday this tent it is unimaginable, how they not only get this it up but that it is still standing days later!

We are standing not sitting as we are not watching a circus. We are standing as the rhythms of Afro Moses demand that you are on your feet moving, something that thankfully does not require too much skill. Our family is spending the weekend at our ‘funky little festival’.

One line from Afro Moses reminds me of the week I just had, 3 days in the Hunter/New England region talking to people with disability and their families about their transition from school student to employee in the open labour market. How to use their NDIS School Leavers Employment Support funding to choose a provider which will support them into a job of their choice. No one said that they wanted to be a afro/blues singer but they all had aspirations to have a job; including a graphic artist, a mechanic and a teacher.

In talking to people with disability and their families about work in the open labour market; about the opportunity for people with significant disabilities not to be reliant on the DSP, to be able to afford the ‘extras’ that working people take for granted; about the opportunity to build skills for independent living , to be able to travel by themselves; to have the opportunity to make friends through working with a wide range of people; I am not telling them something new. When our children are born we all have expectations and hope for them. Without an awareness of what lies ahead we plan a future of happiness and being part of their community. As the years roll by hopes are dashed as our daughters and sons are constantly reminded of their deficiencies and what they will not be able to do because they have a disability. They are separated from their peers and so do not see themselves reflected in the expected activities of their community, work, sport, music, etc. All manner of people, teachers, therapists, social workers, government agencies, etc, tell them that they are different, not different special like Afro Moses who has an enormous talent for music, not like the special people who put up this enormous tent, but special because they cannot do …

The choice of our daughters and sons to be a graphic artist or a teacher reminds us of our first hopes and aspirations. Wanting to be like their brothers and sisters reminds us that we all live in our community and we should all be fully in it. Wanting to have a job that pays well and is interesting reminds us that service providers have a responsibility to make choices happen, not to remind people of the low expectations of the past.

From now on I will open my talks with the phrase, “I am here to remind you not to teach you …”

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IA response to denial of DSP to people in psychiatric ‘confinement’

Inclusion Australia’s Submission to Senate Economics Committee – September 2016

Introduction

This submission makes three claims:

  1. That the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the Disability Discrimination Act both require the Commonwealth Government to treat people with intellectual disability equally. So, if a person charged with a serious offence is found to be not guilty or unfit to stand trial then the Commonwealth Government is required to treat them the same as other people who have been charged and been found to be not guilty.
  2. That this Bill does not meet the Government’s expectations of ‘value for money’, evidence based policy and congruency across all program areas.
  3. That the intention of the Bill is not to address the real needs of people with intellectual disability but is another instance of people with intellectual disability being caught in the middle of a ‘futile’ argument between the Commonwealth and States.

Rehabilitation builds opportunity, punishment diminishes opportunity

The Explanatory Memorandum states:

While the person is undergoing psychiatric confinement, the relevant state or territory government is responsible for taking care of their needs, including funding their treatment and rehabilitation.

The purpose of all government legislation must be to ensure that people with intellectual disability have the best chance and opportunity to be full contributing members of society. Where people are well supported with evidence based practices they are able to contribute to the financial, social and cultural life of the community in which they live. The key is investment, intervening early to ensure that people have the opportunity to build on their skills and to gain a sense of value.

People with intellectual disability have a cognitive impairment and require concrete, practical experience to be able to learn and use the skills that they acquire. Denying people with intellectual disability income support (including the Disability Support Pension {DSP}) will have at least two effects;

  1. it will cast people with disability into poverty. Without resources they will become a ‘burden’ to either the state government through being incarcerated for longer than necessary, or where they are eligible for the NDIS greatly increase the costs to the Commonwealth government through support to relearn skills and the need for housing.
  2. It will inhibit learning and result in the loss of skills.

It has to be acknowledged that most people with intellectual disability who are charged with a serious offence will be people ‘living on the margins of society’. As such they will have limited financial resources and support networks to assist them when they are released from the institution.

We know that without resources people with disability are often ‘stuck’ in institutions because they have no accommodation to move onto. This means greater expenditure for state governments and loss of skills and hope for people with intellectual disability as they remain incarcerated indefinitely.

Put simply, having money going into a bank account on a regular basis enables the staff supporting people with intellectual disability, in a very real way, to budget and to plan for life out of the institution; e.g., if I build up funds for a rental bond then I can talk, in a real way, about where is the best place for me to live and who with; regular money in the bank enables me, in a real way, to talk about budgeting for rent, food, etc. This does not only build skills but also expectation and hope. If my bank account is zero then all talk of housing, rent, budgeting, etc, is done in a vacuum and rightly will get the response, ‘why bother, it is never going to happen’. Funds in the bank also gives the support staff the knowledge that their work will have a positive outcome, it will create a degree of certainty and thus higher expectations.

Of particular concern is the ‘cost burden’ on the NDIS if people with intellectual disability are not supported with evidence based practices while they are institutionalised. It is our contention that all people with intellectual disability are eligible for the NDIS though the level of funded support that they will need will vary greatly depending on the support that they have had to acquire and maintain skills. The continuing investment in maintaining skills and building on these is vital for people to become increasingly independent of both support and welfare. As we have stated, people with intellectual disability learn in the real world, practical hands on day to day actual experience.

This Bill will have a detrimental effect on both the maintenance of everyday skills and the learning of new skills. The effect will be that the NDIS will have a greater cost in re-skilling people, building up their expectations and proving additional support due the lack of financial literacy during their incarceration. The cost will be greater than the pension paid during the person’s incarceration!

A fact that has a direct bearing on pension costs is that a person with both skills and high expectations has a better chance of getting paid employment in the open labour market. We know from evidence based practice that a person with intellectual disability, with the right support, has a decreased reliance on the DSP when they enter the open labour market. This fact is recognised by the Commonwealth government through a number of employment measures that promote entry into the open labour market for people with intellectual disability. This Bill is at odds with other Government policy and clearly does not equal ‘value for money’.

Governments talk about the positive effects of people being engaged in their community. The economic and social benefits of employment and the social and psychological benefits of voluntary work and being involved in cultural activities. This rhetoric must be consistent across all programs and where issues of Commonwealth/state responsibilities cross over these must be resolved without penalising people with intellectual disability.

It would appear that the Government, in trying to address a ‘wrong’ that it see the Federal Court having inflicted on it, is not considering the consequences for people with intellectual disability nor for Commonwealth finances.

Download the full Submission

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Mobility Allowance ending causes concern …

Inclusion Australia has written to Minister Porter after we have received increasing concerns from family members of people with intellectual disability about the 2016 Federal Budget changes to the Mobility Allowance.

With the administration of this payment moving from the Department of Human Services (Centrelink) to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (National Disability Insurance Authority), families are seeking certainty that current payment levels will be guaranteed and that their sons and daughter will not be worse off under the new arrangements.
The Mobility Allowance is an employment incentive to support people with disability unable to use public transport without substantial assistance because of disability, illness, or injury and who travel to and from home for paid work, voluntary work, study or training, or to look for work.
This allowance is essentially designed to support the employment of people with disabilities.
The current open employment participation rates of people with intellectual disability who receive national disability services has been in steady decline over the long term. Inclusion Australia believes it is critical that new policy should ensure that current positive employment outcomes and practices are not harmed.
We have asked Minister Porter to provide certainty that the 2016 Federal Budget measure will not reduce the current payment received by people with intellectual disability participating or seeking to participate in the workforce.
If you have concerns about the Mobility Allowance or any of the 2016 Budget measures please make a comment below.
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Grandstanding is not Advocacy

Grandstanding is not advocacy! Creating fear and uncertainty where certainty exists is not a responsible position by an advocacy organisation. Recently commentary on overseas travel by people on the DSP has been sensational instead of accurate.

Inclusion Australia and Minister Andrews went to considerable trouble last November to clarify the position of people with intellectual disability in relation to overseas travel. People who are on the DSP due to a ‘manifest’ condition are able to travel overseas for any period of time, they are not restricted to 4 weeks. People with intellectual disability (IQ score <70) have a ‘manifest’ condition.

The failure to clearly state the real position for all people with disability has created unnecessary confusion and anxiety for people with intellectual disability and their families. This is not acceptable.

The joint information sheet by Minister Andrews and Inclusion Australia can be read here

Qantas over sydney

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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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