DSP tightens thumb screws

THE Federal Government's welfare-to-work reforms are pushing thousands of people off the disability pension and into financial hardship. Welfare rights organisations say their work is increasingly taken up with these cases.

Tougher eligibility rules, first introduced by the Gillard Labor Government in 2012 and extended by the Coalition, have resulted in more than 30,000 people being taken off Disability Support Payments in the past year. It's the biggest annual drop on record.

The 30,000 people taken off the DSP were selected for review on the basis of age (under 35) and when they were granted the DSP (between 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2011 before the introduction of yet again revised impairment tables). It excluded people who were granted DSP "on manifest grounds", as the Department of Human Services puts it.

Those deemed to have a 'partial capacity' for work are moved onto the Newstart Allowance, which pays $173 a week less than the pension.

The Turnbull government announced in the May Budget that a further 90,000 existing Disability Support Pensioners will face medical reviews over the next three years.

The question is if the review will again only target people under 35 granted DSP between 2008 and 2011, or if over-35s would also fall within scope. The question also is if anyone granted DSP before the impairment tables were reviewed in 2012 will be fair game.

The Government's silence on this issue suggests the answer to both questions is: yes.

Whatever the theoretical merit of these reviews, the result will be to push tens of thousands of people onto Newstart and into poverty and in many cases homelessness.