Labor calls for a top-up to disability and carer support payments

Image: Pikist

Central Coast based Labor Senator Deborah O’Neill has added her voice to calls from the Australian Greens for extra economic support for people on the Disability Support Pension (DSP) and Carer Payment.

Greens Spokesperson for Families, Ageing and Community Services, Senator Rachel Siewert, said in the wake of the second wave of the COVID-19 crisis the Government must urgently top up the DSP and Carer Payments so disabled people and carers can meet the additional costs they are facing because of the pandemic.

“Disabled people and carers have been doing it extremely tough for the last few months without extra support to assist them with the higher costs they’ve been facing for groceries, transport and access to essential supports and medical supplies,” Siewert said.

“With further lockdowns and economic hardship now inevitable, it is incumbent on this government to acknowledge the thousands of Australians on the DSP and Carer payment who need extra support.”

Greens Spokesperson for Disability Rights and Services, Senator Jordon Steele-John, said people had been desperately holding out for the second $750 economic support payment, which was due to be paid last week.

He said both payments, the first in March and the second last week, had been needed to cover the costs of essentials and would disappear quickly, putting many thousands of disabled people and carers “back in a precarious financial position if they don’t receive extra, ongoing support from the government”.

Senator O’Neill said Central Coast residents were anxious and scared about what could be in store as the country navigates its first recession in 30 years.

“Many people on the Disability Support Payment and Carer Payment have lost their jobs or hours, and seen their income fall as a result of coronavirus,” she said. “We’ve never seen unemployment like this on the Coast and the (Liberal Party has) left people with disability and carers way behind – as if they don’t matter.”

But Member for Robertson, Lucy Wicks, said the government had acted decisively to support Australians through this difficult time and has positioned the economy to recover strongly. She said the Coronavirus Supplement of $550 per fortnight on top of regular JobSeeker payments assisted those who felt COVID-19 had directly impacted their ability to find and retain paid employment.

Wicks said the Disability Support Pension and Carer Payment was paid at the highest rate of support in the system at $930 a fortnight (significantly higher than the JobSeeker base rate) and recipients should by now have received two $750 Economic Support Payments. “

Additionally, people who are receiving the (Economic Support) payment have access to the Pensioner Concession Card, which provides access to more concessions than the Health Care Card than people on JobSeeker payment have,” she said.

Wicks said the government had also announced a $90.7M support package to help Australians with a disability gain employment as well as other support services, including a dedicated phone line, 1800 643 787 to provide accessible information, counselling and outreach services to assist people with a disability.

“The Government has also ensured people with a disability have access to Personal Protective Equipment including allocating an additional 500,000 masks to the disability sector,” she said.

Terry Collins