Budget savings should not be found at the ‘expense’ of Australians will disabilities

Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews has flagged an overhaul of the welfare system, appointing former Mission Australia chief executive Patrick McClure to lead a review. Photo: Jeffrey Chan JCCDisability and welfare advocates have met at Parliament House in Canberra amid fears that May budget will see cuts to people receiving disability support.

Concerned that the Abbott government is preparing to move people from the disability support pension onto Newstart, groups including the Australian Council of Social Service, People with Disability Australia, and the Welfare Rights Centre have met to compare notes from recent meetings they have each had with the federal government.

ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie told reporters in Canberra on Friday that Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey must come out immediately to ”assure people with disability across the Australian community that budget savings will not be found at their expense”.

Last year, the Coalition confirmed it was looking to cut costs around the disability support pension, which supports about 822,000 people a year at a cost of $15 billion.

Dr Goldie said it would be an ”extraordinarily perverse notion” to move people off the DSP (which for a single person is about $250 a week more) and onto Newstart.

People with Disability Australia president Craig Wallace that people with disabilities wanted to work but needed extra support in terms of job opportunities, clothing and transport in order to do so.

”We have had the same system for a very long time,” he told reporters in Canberra. ”Now is the time to start trying some new things.”

Mr Wallace suggested that people on DSP who secured a job be able to keep their payments for six months, to provide extra support and confidence required during the transition.

Following their meeting on Friday, the group also expressed concerns that a current federal government’s welfare review is being conducted behind closed doors.

In January, Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews flagged an overhaul of the welfare system, appointing former Mission Australia chief executive Patrick McClure to lead a review.

Dr Goldie said she had found Mr McClure to be supportive in discussions so far but said there was also a ”bigger discussion going on [within government] about the budget”.

Mr Wallace expressed concern that the welfare review has not asked for written submissions and does not have a clear terms of reference.

”We would actually like this to be a more open and transparent process. We would like to know what the timetable for this review is, what its relationship with [the] is budget,” he said.

Mr Andrews’ office has been contacted for comment.

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