Labor is warning thousands of vulnerable Australians will be at risk of poverty if the federal government tinkers with the eligibility criteria for the disability pension.
Recipients of the disability support pension (DSP) could be examined by independent doctors to see if they’re still eligible for the payments under changes reportedly being considered by the government.
Disability pensioners assessed by their family doctor prior to changes introduced by Labor in 2011 could be re-examined by specialists from the Department of Human Services, Fairfax Media reports.
Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews is leading a review into the welfare system, and has expressed concerns about the number of people receiving the DSP instead of being encouraged back into work.
Labor disabilities spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said the government’s claims of a welfare crisis were “rubbish” and simply a tactic to cut support for vulnerable people in the upcoming May budget.
“The Abbott government can’t tell the Australian people what their plan to get people into work is, because they don’t have one,” Ms Mackin said in a statement on Sunday.
She said under Labor’s reforms to the DSP, the number of people receiving the payments between 2012 and 2013 fell for the first time in 30 years.
The Australian Council of Social Service said reform was needed to improve job prospects for people on pensions, but it wouldn’t support any changes that took money away from those who need it most.
“If the government chooses to go down that road, it would be a major backward step and extremely damaging to some of the most vulnerable members of our community,” ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said in a statement.
The government has warned the costs of administering the DSP – currently received by more than 800,000 Australians – could blow out if not addressed.