Imagine living on $360 per week, and having only this income to pay for your accommodation, food, clothes, transport and leisure. This is the reality that many Australians with a disability face, and the reason that so many are living close to or below the poverty line.
In 2013, $15 billion was spent to provide 800,000 Australians with the Disability Support Pension (DSP), a fortnightly payment designed to cover daily living expenses. The DSP and supporting payments usually total a maximum of $360 per week and is counted on for survival, though it is barely enough to live on.
There is a sense of frustration in many, that despite the large amount of money allocated by the commonwealth and state and territory governments, very little seems to trickle down to those who need it the most.
As discussed in The Productivity Commission’s 2013 Deep and Persistent Disadvantage in Australia report, it is well understood that the way out of disadvantage for most people of working age is employment, yet only 30% of employment placements through Disability Employment Services last longer than six months.
If the DSP could be seen as a minimum to enable people with a disability to have a base income while furthering economic participation and community involvement within the workforce, we would all benefit. This could be achieved through providing support that makes it more viable for people with disability to have employment and connections in their community and therefore allowing the money provided by the DSP to be used in more beneficial ways.
An example of this model is what Inclusion Melbourne does well; offering individually tailored support that allows people with a disability to decide what they want to do daily, with one-on-one support and with training for skill development and support from volunteers. With the NDIS being introduced until 2019, people receiving the DSP will have more control over the support services they require to live inclusive and enjoyable lives.