What people with disability need to know about the Federal Budget (2023 – ‘24)

General practitioners (GPs) will be incentivised to offer bulk billing to those on a Pension or have a concession card. (Source: Shutterstock)

The Federal Government Budget was delivered by Treasurer Jim Chalmers and several announcements will be of particular interest to people living with a disability in Australia.

Key points:

  • The Government is seeking to save $73.4 billion dollars over the next decade through overhauling the NDIS
  • General practitioners (GPs) will be incentivised to offer bulk billing to those on a Pension or have a concession card
  • Welfare payments will increase for JobSeeker by $20 dollars per week

The Federal Government Budget was delivered by Treasurer Jim Chalmers and several announcements will be of particular interest to people living with a disability in Australia.

This Disability Support Guide to the 2023 – 2024 Australian Budget will present the wins, losses and interesting details which will shape the future of what it’s like to live with a disability in Australia.

How people with a disability will benefit from the Budget

  • Energy relief of up to $500 dollars, per year
  • Cheaper medicines, more GPs bulk billing pensioners and healthcare card holders without a co-payment
  • An increase of $15 dollars a week in rent assistance
  • $20 dollars more in JobSeeker payments, per week

Perhaps the biggest change and greatest win for Australians living with a disability which was announced in the Federal Budget was the JobSeeker rate raised by $20 dollars a week, which may assist with combatting discrimination in the job hunt.

The Government also plans to invest over $910 million dollars over four years to improve the operations of the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Quality and Safeguards Commission.

The proposed overhaul of the NDIS, which is intended to improve operations and cut costs through dodgy providers, will hope to save the Government $15.3 billion dollars across the next four years, with a target of eight percent growth in annual funding.

Peak advocacy group — People with Disability Australia (PWDA) — welcomed the Government’s commitment to ensuring the NDIS is still a viable option for people with disability to receive support in Australia.

PWDA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Nicole Lee believes that the many quality of life changes which were announced, to assist with housing, cost-of-living and safeguarding will be good for the disability community.

“We welcome the Government’s commitment to work with the disability community in implementing the new NDIS initiatives funded in tonight’s budget,” says Ms Lee.

“Following recent concerns, we’re buoyed that the 8% growth target for the NDIS is a target and not a cap, and that the NDIS will remain demand driven. However, it is important that the community is given an ongoing commitment that their choice and control over access to essential supports is protected,” she says.

“People with disability fought hard for essential supports from the NDIS. To maintain and build stronger trust, it’s crucial the government delivers essential supports in a demand driven way.”

PWDA Deputy CEO Carolyn Hodge believes that the $14.1 million over two years for COVID-19 payments will support carers of people with disability, keeping them from spreading the virus to clients.

“Ensuring workers supporting people with disability will have access to financial support if they contract COVID-19 and don’t have leave entitlements, will be key to reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection for people with disability,” says Ms Hodge.

“COVID-19 is far from over for people with disability, who continue to remain at significant risk,” adds Ms Lee.

 

Visiting GPs

The Government has set aside $3.5 billion dollars for GPs to restore bulk billing for pensioners and Commonwealth concession card holders to help ease cost-of-living pressures and help older people seek treatment for chronic and complex health conditions.

When visiting the GP, people can be prescribed two months’ worth of some Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) listed medications so they don’t need to attend the GP and chemist as often and pay more. Both GPs and Nurse Practitioners will be able to prescribe the approved PBS medications to people, making prescriptions more accessible.

 

My Medicare

The Disability Support for Older Australians program will be extended and made ongoing with $487 million in funding over four years. Older people with disabilities will benefit from disability services which they can receive at home and in their communities.

Finally, $2.5 million is being invested into the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia (FECCA), to establish the Australian Multicultural Health Collaborative. This will help to advocate for older Australians of different cultures and languages in healthcare.

How people with a disability won’t benefit from the Budget

  • Concerns that the disability community has not been prioritised
  • Concerns that not enough is being done for sustainable housing
  • Strict(er) smoking taxes

Australian Dental Association (ADA) CEO Damian Mitsch says that the only good thing to come out of the Budget was further restrictions of smoking and vaping.

The majority of smokers in Australia are aged 55 – 64 and a $3.3 billion dollar tax increase on cigarette sales will be dedicated to stopping imported nicotine vaping products, which have been commonly used to quit the habit.

People with mental illness are significantly more likely to smoke than the wider national population, with a 2019 report finding that Australian adults who reported having been diagnosed or treated for mental illness in the past year were almost twice as likely to be a current smoker than those who had not been diagnosed or treated in the past year.

The rate for people with a psychosocial disability who experience psychosis are 60 to 70 percent more likely to smoke than the general population.

PWDA also stated that the additional pay increase for Commonwealth rent assistance and JobSeeker may not be sufficient for the cost of rent and housing should continue to be a priority for the Government.

“Increases to JobSeeker are really important and will make a difference to people with disability, especially with many people unable to access the Disability Support Pension,” says Ms Hodge. 

“After the NDIS, housing is the number one issue that people with disability contact our individual advocacy services about. While these increases are welcome, we need to put the $31 per fortnight rise in the context of huge housing cost increases that show no signs of slowing,” she says.

 

Related content:

South Australia faces disability accommodation crisis

Urgent calls to simplify access and raise youth rate of DSP

NDIS Minister promises overhaul will be more efficient