Outline the historical development of the policy including other linked policies highlighting key changes
The Disability Support Pension is Australia’s universal health insurance scheme that guarantees all people who are unable to work due to a physical, mental, or intellectual disability financial help, which is a payment administered by Centrelink (Legal Services Commission of South Australia, 1999). This essay will discuss the long and turbulent relationship between Australia’s political classes and its viewpoint on the Disability Support Pension. Australia’s DSP fits into the larger political economy of the welfare state and shows a liberal regime that is non-contributory, and good for needs-based entitlement.
People with disabilities have long been relegated to the shadows and cursed. When shown to the public, they have been displayed at museums and exploited as jokes. To “address” the “problem” of disabled individuals, society has institutionalised or incarcerated them, and sterilisation of women and girls is considered a treatment option (History of Australia’s disability movement, 2022).
The Commonwealth Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Act, which was introduced and signed into law in 1908 (Bessant et al., 2006), was the first law in Australia to help people with disabilities get money. Australia was one of the first countries to set up a government-funded income support system for social protection that covered the whole country (Dixon & Hyde 2000). Prior to that time, the responsibility for taking care of the elderly and the disabled fell on families, churches, charities, and government agencies. Conditions at these types of facilities were often harsh. Today, the disability pension is a targeted payment with a flat rate that is based on a person’s income and other criteria for eligibility (Bessant et al. 2006).
The cessation of Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Act was replaced by the creation of The Disability Support Pension in 1991, bringing with it extra obligations when it came to paying and rebates associated with health care along with the accessibility. The DSP requirements were increased with both non-medical and medical rules taking effect. The non-medical rules determine whether or not a patient satisfies the age requirement, the residency prerequisites, the minimum amount of income, and the maximum level of assets. The patient’s medical condition must be considered in light of how it may affect their capacity to do their job (Disability Support Pension, Services Australia 2022). Although a person may have a disability, they will not be eligible for the DSP if it is not supported by the established medical rules (Disability Support Pension, Services Australia 2022). This is a hard reality that many people face in the present day. Although the advancement from 1908 to the present has been dramatic, there is yet room for additional improvement.
The first iteration of The Disability Support Pension was called Invalid and Old-Age Pensions and it was introduced by the New South Wales government in 1908, to later be recognised by the commonwealth in 1910. Very minor changes were made to the Invalid and Old-Age Pensions throughout the years until during the economic downturn of the early 1890s, when widespread poverty was a growing problem, the question of who should support individuals who were unable to care for themselves became a controversial topic (National Museum of Australia, 2003). One significant change was the name and the refining of the DSP. The DSP as we know it came into operation following the acknowledgement of universal care for those who are unable to work. Further development of the policy has been made since and continues to adapt in relation to how Australians live their lives today. The current “system” of disability support is unsustainable for several reasons. The significant expenses associated with meeting the needs of people in crisis limit funding for other support programmes. This is because when faced with budget limits, systems have little choice but to give precedence to families in crisis. This displaces finances for early intervention and respite programmes, resulting in an increase in the number of families in crisis and a continuing relationship between shortages and crises (Australian Government Productivity Commission 2020). The federal budget of Australia cannot cover everyone who need assistance.
Critically discuss key issues and issue drivers identified within the policy and government literature in relation to relevant commentary and scholarly literature. In particular critically examine the core values, beliefs and assumptions underpinning the policy
The Disability Support Program (DSP) was developed from a social policy standpoint in response to a disability service sector that was underfunded, unequal, and fragmented. This situation was to the detriment of the disabled population, who were left with few options and little assurance that they would receive necessary services. There is an increasing amount of strain being placed on the system, and the costs associated with this strain are also rising for all of the governments. (Australian Government Productivity Commission 2020). The findings of the Shut Out report illustrate the inequality that exists between those living in Australia who have disabilities and those who do not have disabilities in all aspects of life, including work, housing, and community involvement (National People with Disabilities Carers Council Australia 2009). People with disabilities were found to have common and defining characteristics such as feelings of exclusion, fear, segregation, and marginalisation, and despite global shifts in attitude, there were still extensive misconceptions and ignorant stereotypes of people with disabilities among the community (National People with Disabilities Carers Council Australia 2009).
Another key issue within the policy is the costing and strain that the government is facing with the DSP. The continuous increase of Disability Support Pension beneficiaries is a key worry for policymakers and public observers. This is due in part to the impact on the federal budget of having over 800,000 individuals receiving DSP, with DSP payments totalling $14.9 billion in 2012–2013. (Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs 2013b)
Discuss key findings from evaluation of the policy – including government and non-government evaluations and reviews – highlighting strengths and weakness
History of Australia’s disability movement (2022) People With disability Australia.
Legal Services Commission of South Australia. (1999). Law handbook. Legal Services Commission of South Australia.
Bessant, J., Watts, R., Dalton, T. & Smyth, P. (2006) Talking Policy: How Social Policy is Made, Crows Nest, NSW, Allen and Unwin
Dixon, J. & Hyde. M. (2000) ‘A global perspective on social security programmes for disabled people’, Disability and Society, 15 (5), 709–730
Australian Government Productivity Commission 2020, Disability Care and Support, Productivity Commission Inquiry Report, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra ACT,
National People with Disabilities Carers Council Australia 2009, Shut out : the experience of people with disabilities and their families in Australia : National Disability Strategy consultation report, cat.no. 9781921647000, Australia, Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Canberra, ACT.
Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs 2013b, Portfolio Budget Statements 2013–14, Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Canberra.
What the eligibility rules are (2022) Disability Support Pension eligibility rules information for health professionals – Disability Support Pension information for health professionals – Services Australia. Australian Government.
National Museum of Australia. (2003). ABC : National Museum of Australia. National Museum of Australia.
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