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Mentally ill people threatened with loss of disability support pension by Gov report.

People with a mental illness will be targeted as one of the groups to become ineligible for the disability support pension (DSP) if the federal government adopts the recommendations of a review into DSP.

Patrick McClure, the head of the federal government review, whose interim report was released last Sunday, said people would “not necessarily be better off” under the proposed welfare reforms.  In other words – they will be worse off.

More than 800,000 Australians receive up to $813 a fortnight on the DSP, which is designed to compensate those who are unable to work due to debilitating physical or mental/intellectual illnesses. According to Patrick McClure, 30% of the 800,000 DSP recipients (that’s around 240,000 people) had a mental illness that was only “episodic in nature”.

Asked how many people would lose the DSP, McClure said,mentally ill people could be moved to a working age payment instead. In other words, the dole – Newstart Allowance – a change which would cut pensions by approximately $155 per week, an equivalent of just over $8,000 lost income per year.

This attitude complies with the intention of the Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews, who seeks to review the cases of young people and new applications for the pension; citing the possibility of setting up a specialist panel of doctors to decide on cases of DSP receipt, and the length the payment will be received. We all know how understanding these panels will be.

This is a real “kick in the guts” for the mentally ill. The DSP provides essential support to people who live with this disability. Mental illness is responsible for more years lost to disability in Australia than cancer or heart disease, and has a disproportionately higher impact on younger adults, particularly during the period when they would normally just be beginning their employment/careers.

As for mental illness being “episodic in nature”, Well hello, of course it is.  Given the often fluctuating nature of the impact of mental illness, sufferers find it extremely difficult to adjust between episodes of wellness, when they may be able to work for a period and when unwellness occurs with an intensity, which prevents them from working.

Surely, the government is not proposing that these already ill people will need to be hit with the double whammy of a significant drop in income from DSP to Newstart and then a period of absolutely nothing at all, while they wait for Centrelink to reinstate their DSP?  This can only add to their trauma and lengthen the periods of unwellness.

We call upon all concerned citizens, welfare organisations and their peak bodies to raise-up in arms over this inhumane proposal.

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