Disability pensioners will soon be able to work more and still receive payments.

The Australian Government has introduced a Bill that seeks to ease the restrictions on the hours per week that a person receiving DSP can work.

From July 2012, all DSP pensioners will be able to work up to 30 hours per week. The new Bill imposes no limit on the time that a DSP recipient can work 30 hours a week.

Previously, DSP recipients granted after 11 May 2005 could only work up to 15 hours a week before their payment was suspended or cancelled. DSP recipients granted before this date were ‘grandfathered’ under the Welfare to Work changes and could work up to 30 hours a week before their DSP was suspended or cancelled.

DSP recipients subject to ‘the 15 hour rule’ found it difficult to find work limited to only 15 hours a week.  Many wanted to test whether they could work more hours but were worried about losing their eligibility for DSP.

The new change aims to remove the disincentive for DSP recipients to work if they are able and to help to address the low workforce participation rate of people with disability.

It will also improve incentives for DSP recipients to work, or to increase their work hours, as they may receive a part pension in addition to employment income subject to the income test.

The Bill also introduces new (but previously announced) participation requirements for DSP recipients under 35 who are assessed as having some work capacity. This group will be required to attend regular participation interviews and develop participation plans with Centrelink in order to overcome potential barriers and build their work capacity. They will be encouraged, but not required, to implement the participation plan.

The Bill also contains a clause that allows DSP recipients with a severe and permanent disability, and no capacity to work, to travel overseas for more than 13 weeks while retaining their pension.

DSP recipients who are severely disabled and are required to accompany a family member who has been posted overseas by their Australian employer will be entitled to continue to receive their pension for the period of the family member’s posting. These pensioners will not be eligible for add-on payments such as the Pension Supplement or Rent Assistance while they are overseas.

The Bill will be debated in parliament over the next few weeks and the changes are scheduled to take effect from 1 July 2012.

Revised impairment tables now in force

Also important to note is that people who apply for DSP are now being assessed under revised Impairment Tables, which changed in January.

People who do not have a severe impairment or illness must demonstrate that they have tried to get help to find work before they can be eligible.

The updated Tables were recommended by an advisory committee consisting of medical, allied health and rehabilitation experts, representatives of people with disability, mental health advocates and relevant government agencies and can be viewed at: http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/sa/disability/payments/Pages/dsp_impairment_tables.aspx

The government has also taken a number of steps to help people with a disability get and keep a job whenever possible. This includes investing more than $3 billion over the next four years through uncapping access to Disability Employment Services, so people with disability can get help to find work.

They are also supporting employers to take on more DSP recipients through new financial incentives (see separate article in this issue).

You can read the Minister for Disability Reform Jenny Macklin’s speech on DSP reforms at: