Ministerial back-flip on disability pension a lifesaver
QAI Media release
Ministerial backflip on pension is a lifesaver for people with disability.
The Australian Federation of Disability Organizations (AFDO), the Disability Advocacy Network of Australia (DANA) and QAI went to Canberra last week to convince federal politicians to oppose the 2019 budget measure. Their work, with support from many others, has saved lives. Department of Social Services Minister Fletcher has reversed the policy measure in response. Essential income support to people with disabilities who exit prison will be available to them still.
Prisoners with disabilities who exit jail ordinarily move straight back onto the Disability Support Pension (DSP) if they serve less than two years in prison, but the Federal Government planned to change that by reducing the suspension time to 13 weeks. DSS would have implemented the budget measure from 1 January 2019.
People with intellectual disability are imprisoned at about five times the rate of the general population in Australia and their socioeconomic circumstances after release from prison are more indicative of re-offending than the prison term itself.1 Making people reapply for the DSP is the same as taking income support away, and the consequences are devastating.
Research tells us that the first six weeks out of prison are the hardest: a place to live, food, and finding work depend on getting income support. The suicide rate of released prisoners spikes around six weeks. Access to an income, and the related ability to obtain appropriate housing and necessities has a direct impact on whether a person re-offender, breaches parole or self-harms.