Barriers to Disability Support Pension Access for People with Psychiatric Impairments and Their Experiences on Jobseeker Payment

Authors: Louise St Guillaume and Jasmine Robertson (University of Notre Dame Australia, in collaboration with Economic Justice Australia and the Welfare Rights Centre New South Wales)

The report examines the experiences of people with psychiatric disability on JobSeeker Payment who are applying for the Disability Support Pension (DSP), or appealing refusal, and are trying to meet their mutual obligations for JobSeeker Payment (formerly Newstart Allowance) in the interim.

The research project involved an examination of the DSP policy framework, a review of relevant DSP appeal cases heard by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), and an analysis of case studies published by EJA in the February 2021 edition of its online publication Social Security Rights Review. The case studies were provided by the Welfare Rights Centre (WRC) in New South Wales (NSW), Basic Rights Queensland and Illawarra Legal Centre – all of which are EJA member centres.

Our analysis clearly indicates that there are structural and systemic barriers to accessing DSP for people whose primary impairment is psychiatric. It is clear that the onerous evidence requirements associated with applying for DSP act as a systemic barrier to the claims process for this cohort of people with disability. A lack of understanding of the vagaries of evidence requirements by both applicants and doctors can mean that people with severe psychiatric disability are forced to appeal to the AAT to establish qualification for DSP, while many others struggle on JobSeeker Payment indefinitely

Our findings also highlight the significant problems experienced by people with psychiatric impairments in meeting JobSeeker Payment mutual obligations. As a consequence of being unable to meet their mutual obligations many people in the reviewed cases were penalised with periods of non-payment, leading to financial hardship – and many experienced an exacerbation of their psychiatric condition.

Examination of these cases shows that people with psychiatric impairments are not adequately supported economically, mentally, and physically on JobSeeker Payment. Overall, people with psychiatric impairments are structurally and systemically disadvantaged by the social security system.

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