A newly released study will help understand the health of the more than 1.4 million Australians receiving Newstart Allowance (NSA) and the Disability Support Pension (DSP).
Funded by Monash University, The Health of Disability Support Pension and Newstart Allowance Recipients analysed the data of 638 DSP recipients, 442 NSA recipients and 8440 wage earners, who completed the 2014/15 National Health Survey.
Among the findings…
More than three in every five DSP recipients and one third of NSA recipients rated their health as ‘poor’ or ‘fair’
69 percent of DSP recipients reported experiencing a mental or behavioural problem, such as anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), mood disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
The same pattern was observed among NSA recipients, 48 percent also reported experiencing a mental or behavioural problem
DSP recipients are at two to three times the risk of visiting a hospital than wage earners, while NSA recipients have a 1.5 to two times increased risk compared with wage earners
More than two in every five (42.6 percent) DSP recipients visited a General Practitioner (GP) more than 10 times in the previous 12 months, compared to less than 5 percent of wage earners and 19 percent of NSA recipients.
Shockingly, there are now almost 750,000 DSP and 200,000 NSA recipients of working age who have work capacity restrictions, with the benefit payments of both schemes costing the Government $27 billion per year.
Professor Alex Collie, Director of the Insurance Work and Health Group at the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, says the report provides an insight into the significant health gap between NSA and DSP recipients and people in paid employment.
“It’s important that we have detailed understanding of the health and health service use of people on Newstart and the DSP so that we can provide the services and supports that will have the best chance of improving health and reducing disability.”
Professor Collie says there is more that can be done besides financial support.
“Delivery of other services such as healthcare can also be improved, but only if we know what sorts of healthcare are most required and what sorts of health conditions or health shocks we should be seeking to prevent or alleviate.”
He notes there is significant evidence linking financial stress, poverty and poor health, and says reducing poverty will result in improved health outcomes.
“We also know that the rate of poverty is much higher in people on Newstart and the DSP than in other Australians.
“One way to reduce poverty would be to increase the rate of the DSP and Newstart Allowance so that people can afford the things that are important for living a healthy lifestyle, such as housing and food,” Professor Collie says.
Romola Hollywood, Director of Policy and Advocacy, People with Disability Australia (PWDA), says over a quarter of people on Newstart are people with disability and/or illness.
“We know that people with disability who are relying on income support, often struggle to pay for the essential healthcare they need,” Ms Hollywood explains.
“Our members have told us that health is one of their key policy concerns, along with the inadequacy of many income support payments, particularly Newstart.”
Ms Hollywood says PWDA strongly believe that the rate of Newstart is too low and needs to be raised by $75 per week.
“People with disability often face higher medical costs, and that needs to be reflected in the social security system.
“We welcome the recent announcement of a Senate Inquiry to look at the “Adequacy of Newstart and related payments”. It is vital that this inquiry considers the additional health care and support costs that people with disability on income support face.
“We also need to remember that only 10 percent of people with disability are eligible for the NDIS and that the vast majority of people with disability can face high out of pocket costs for health care and other support needs.”
Monash University has also opened a new study seeking to understand the experiences of people applying for the DSP and receiving the DSP, through a 15-minute survey.
The report and survey can be found at www.dspstudy.com.