Wallace slams proposed Disability Support Pension changes

REGIONAL Australians could be the most vulnerable to large-scale changes to the Disability Support Pension being considered by the Federal Government.

Disability advocates warn the tinkering will make little positive difference.

Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews has flagged changes to the pension that would focus on helping some people, particularly younger people, back into the workforce.

In New South Wales and Queensland, 431,621 people receive the pension.

Mr Andrews may create a two-level system to separate those with permanent disabilities from those temporarily affected.

People with Disabilities Australia president Craig Wallace said it could lead to those who get put on temporary pensions being shunted to the Newstart allowance that pays less.

Given the costs required for support, medication or disability aids, Mr Wallace said it could put even more pressure on a group already facing massive disadvantages.

"We don't think changes to the pension in the past have been a good way of moving supporting people into work," he said.

"Most people with disabilities can and do work and want to work.

"They find substantial barriers in the community."

The consequences for those outside metropolitan areas could be compounded because there is often a shortage of key services.

"People in regional areas could be far worse off because they have limited job opportunities already," Mr Wallace said.

Mr Wallace said if the government was serious about helping those with disabilities back into work, it needed to look in the mirror.

Since the mid-1980s, the number of people with disabilities employed by the government has gradually eroded, he said.

"The public service employment for people with disabilities has steadily declined - since 1986 it has more than halved from 6.6% to 3.1% last year.

"They're not walking the talk and it means it's really hard to ask business to walk the talk," he said.

Mr Andrews's office said a review would be done into the Disability Support Pension.


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