People with Disability Australia (PWDA) is shocked at the announcement by Minister Andrews today that from 1 January 2015, only government contracted doctors will assess new DSP claims. PWDA agrees that if there are issues of fraud in the system then these should be dealt with appropriately, but this should be achieved using the existing mechanisms rather than by attacking the DSP assessment process.
If some form of independent oversight of assessments is necessary then PWDA is open to consultation on what that may involve. However, “the medical opinions of doctors who have existing relationships with people with disability should not be discounted in the assessment process,’’ said PWDA President Craig Wallace.
“Many people with chronic illness or psychosocial disability can present well one day but have debilitating symptoms the next, which is why a one-off assessment by a person who doesn’t know the recipient isn’t comprehensive.”
This approach also undermines the integrity of thousands of GPs who undertake DSP assessments every year.
Any changes to the DSP should be made after consultation with people with disability and take a holistic approach towards employment and income support. It’s a concern that this announcement has been made without consultation and without waiting for the outcome of the McClure review into Welfare Reform.
“What we need is a jobs plan to support people with disability into genuine employment,” said Mr Wallace. “We don’t need the involvement of more doctors, and we don’t need more inquiries into the barriers to employment for people with disability. We already know what the problems are. As I keep saying, what we need is a focus on jobs.”
“People with disability are sick and tired of being called dishonest rorters who need to be weeded out of the welfare system,’’ continued Craig Wallace. “This type of labelling by the media is stigmatising and unhelpful. Calling us names won’t create more jobs and opportunities, but it will make us feel undervalued, as if we need to justify our circumstances; we do not!”
PWDA also criticises the timing of Minister Andrews’s announcement. With the holiday season around the corner this should be a time for people to relax and spend time with their loved ones. Instead, for many people with recently acquired illness or disability the next few weeks will be an anxious time, with many concerned that come January there will be additional hoops to jump through in order to prove their DSP eligibility.
“This Minister’s habit of announcing cost saving measures targeting the vulnerable at festive times of year is disappointing,” said Mr Wallace.