The changes, which are anticipated to come into effect as of 1 July 2018 will now require Aged Pension and DSP recipients to have:
- Ten continuous years of Australian residence, including at least five years during their Australian working life, or
- Ten continuous years of Australian residence and proof they have not received activity tested income support for cumulative periods of five years of more, or
- 15 years of continuous Australian residence
Currently, the eligibility criteria for the DSP requires recipients to be:
- between 16 years of age and age pension age
- have a permanent medical condition that stops you from working
- meet residency requirements
- meet income and assets tests
Despite the changes estimated to save taxpayers $119 million, and the fact that the 2017 records show that there are approximately 750,000 DSP recipients, a Department of Social Services spokesperson says the changes are unlikely to affect 98 percent of Aged Pension and DSP recipients.
“Welfare reform is essential to ensure Australia has a welfare system that remains financially sustainable for future generations,” the spokesperson says.
“The ‘Enhanced residency requirements for pensioners’ measure is expected to save Australian taxpayers more than $119 million over the forward estimates [and] 98 percent of people applying for the Age Pension or Disability Support Pension will be unaffected by this measure.”
The Department also refers to existing exemptions to residence requirements that will remain, such as humanitarian entrants, or in relation to DSP, where a person incurs a continuing inability to work after arrival in Australia; with access to Special Benefit also remaining available for people who are not eligible for another payment and who experience financial hardship.
National Disability Services Chief Executive Ken Baker stands alongside the Department of Social Services, reiterating that this measure “should not have a large impact”.
“It will not affect existing pensioners or 98 percent of new claimants - and there will be exemptions, such as for humanitarian entrants to Australia,” he explains.
However, Mr Baker says it follows a series of measures over several years which have reduced numbers on the Disability Support Pension significantly: by 71,500 people or 9 percent since 2014, despite population growth.
“This reduction would be good news if the people who would have been on DSP are now in jobs, but we don’t know that,” he continues.
“The employment rate of people with disability in Australia has been low and static for a long time.”
He adds that in pursuit of welfare reform, the Government “must focus on” strengthening the support and pathways, enabling many more people with disability to work.