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People with Disability Australia
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Welfare Reform Interim Report
  Tuesday 1 July 2014
 
Dear ,
 
After months of speculation, the federal Government appointed Reference Group on Welfare Reform finally released their Interim Report ‘A new System for Better Employment and Social Outcomes’ on Sunday 29 June 2014.

Since the report’s release, PWDA President, Craig Wallace has been speaking publicly about our initial views.  He has expressed strong concerns about the release of this report on a Sunday amidst negative media portrayals of people with disability.

Craig Wallace said, “…talking about people with disability as rorters, bludgers, slackers, slouchers, that kind of language that we’ve seen over the past couple of months, traduces and trashes and destroys the brand of people with disability to employers.  I say right here, we are not rorters, we are not slackers.”
 
 
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Craig also strongly stated, “…this media demonisation of people with disability is unhelpful and counterintuitive and it has to stop.” 

PWDA is very concerned that negative media portrayals only exacerbate the distress people with disability are feeling about the proposed changes and the impact these will have on our lives.

Given the lack of meaningful community consultation in this process to date, PWDA also believes that the six week timeframe for public submission is insufficient.

“Given that we already have some measures through the budget I would ask why the hurry to suddenly have to do this in six weeks? We seem to get bombshells dropped at weekends,” Craig said. “We would prefer to take a bit longer, given this is such a complex system, to do the consultation thoroughly and make sure we are working through all of the issues that need to be worked through. This is an opportunity to reset the debate.”

PWDA is currently analysing the details of the Welfare Reform Interim Report in order to make a full response to the Reference Group.  PWDA will continue to provide updates to our members over the coming weeks. Our initial views include: 
  • cautious support for a simplified social support structure under the four proposed pillars for reform; Building community capacity, Engaging with employers, Strengthening individual and family capability and Simpler and sustainable income support system.  However, reflecting Australian values of fairness and harmony, we would have liked to have also seen a fifth pillar for reform; Sustaining a safety net.
     
  • concerns about proposed changes that would see the Disability Support Pension (DSP) available only for people with ‘permanent impairment and no capacity to work’.  Classifying people as having permanent and non-permanent disability is misleading and shows a lack of understanding of the complexity of life with disability and what affects a person’s ability to work or study.

  • concerns about people with disability being moved from the DSP to a tiered working age payment. A significant drop in income without a safety net to cover the higher cost of living with disability will lead to increased risk of poverty, homelessness and disadvantage. The National Disability Insurance Scheme will not fill this financial gap for people with disability and must not be viewed as a replacement for the DSP. Not all people with disability will be eligible for the NDIS, and the scheme is designed to provide disability support services NOT an income safety net.

  • support for the commitment to engage with employers and develop an ‘employment covenant’. We hope that these reforms will deliver more than similar initiatives have in the past.  As Craig Wallace says, “jobs and economic opportunities are the next frontiers of disability rights.”
How you can make your voice heard
If you have any initial comments or concerns, please contact Kate Finch, Advocacy Projects Manager on one of the numbers listed at the end of this Alert or email katef@pwd.org.au
 
 
PWDA comment in mainstream press
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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People with Disability Australia (PWDA)
www.pwd.org.au (02) 9370 3100 1800 422 015