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Down Syndrome NSW
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Monday, 15 December 2014

Commonwealth doctors to assess new DSP claims

We will be interested to hear how/whether this change affects people with Down syndrome who are applying for the Disability Support Pension after 1st January:

Commonwealth doctors to assess new DSP claims
The Hon Kevin Andrews, Minister for Social Services, 12 December 2014
Joint Media Release with: Minister for Human Services Marise Payne

Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews has announced Australian Government-contracted doctors will assess new claims for the Disability Support Pension from next year to achieve consistency and equity across the country.

"This measure, which starts on January 1, is not aimed at those who may never be able to work but rather people who can work with independent advice and the right support,” he said.

“The Government is committed to maintaining a safety net for those who cannot support themselves but many others remain on the pension longer than they need to.”

Mr Andrews said the measure follows other changes to the DSP, which uphold the integrity of the welfare system and ensure support goes to those who need it.

“Another recent change to the DSP has included compulsory participation activities for people aged under 35 who can work for more than eight hours per week.

“This measure has already helped thousands of DSP recipients to engage with Job Services Providers with the view to getting back into the workforce.”

Last financial year the Department of Human Services investigated 411 people for dishonestly claiming DSP, which resulted in $9.5 million in raised debts.

Minister for Human Services Marise Payne said the Government is committed to protecting the integrity of the welfare system.

“This change will ensure support goes to those most in need,’’ Minister Payne said

Friday 12 December 2014

People with Disability Australia (PWDA) is shocked at the announcement by Minister Andrews today that from 1 January 2015, only government contracted doctors will assess new DSP claims. PWDA agrees that if there are issues of fraud in the system then these should be dealt with appropriately, but this should be achieved using the existing mechanisms rather than by attacking the DSP assessment process.

If some form of independent oversight of assessments is necessary then PWDA is open to consultation on what that may involve. However, “the medical opinions of doctors who have existing relationships with people with disability should not be discounted in the assessment process,’’ said PWDA President Craig Wallace.

“Many people with chronic illness or psychosocial disability can present well one day but have debilitating symptoms the next, which is why a one-off assessment by a person who doesn’t know the recipient isn’t comprehensive.”

This approach also undermines the integrity of thousands of GPs who undertake DSP assessments every year.

Any changes to the DSP should be made after consultation with people with disability and take a holistic approach towards employment and income support. It’s a concern that this announcement has been made without consultation and without waiting for the outcome of the McClure review into Welfare Reform.

“What we need is a jobs plan to support people with disability into genuine employment,” said Mr Wallace. “We don’t need the involvement of more doctors, and we don’t need more inquiries into the barriers to employment for people with disability. We already know what the problems are. As I keep saying, what we need is a focus on jobs.”

“People with disability are sick and tired of being called dishonest rorters who need to be weeded out of the welfare system,’’ continued Craig Wallace. “This type of labelling by the media is stigmatising and unhelpful. Calling us names won’t create more jobs and opportunities, but it will make us feel undervalued, as if we need to justify our circumstances; we do not!”

PWDA also criticises the timing of Minister Andrews’s announcement. With the holiday season around the corner this should be a time for people to relax and spend time with their loved ones. Instead, for many people with recently acquired illness or disability the next few weeks will be an anxious time, with many concerned that come January there will be additional hoops to jump through in order to prove their DSP eligibility.

“This Minister’s habit of announcing cost saving measures targeting the vulnerable at festive times of year is disappointing,” said Mr Wallace.

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