When Terry Sweetman wrote in The Courier Mail (5/1/18) that when it comes to the older generation and their experience of their advancing years ‘there is no one size fits all’ he gave voice to the injustice and inequity currently facing so many older Australians.
It’s not just ageism proving to be a daily battle for those of advancing years, but the denial of Disability Support Pension (DSP) entitlements for those who find their bodies broken and their resolve worn down by relentless pain following a life of continuous hard work, tax-paying, broader family-supporting and unpaid volunteer work (simply for community service and participation reasons, as was the custom then).
A discrepancy which allows a person to be deemed to have a ‘permanent disability’ and yet still be denied the DSP and subjected to the stricter income and assets related eligibility test of Newstart, and its lower level of income support, may be one of the factors perpetuating this injustice. Especially for the person found to have a permanent disability who would be eligible for support under the DSP eligibility rules but who is not eligible under the Newstart criteria. The injustice of this seemingly illogical position is exacerbated given that having a ‘permanent disability’ does not exempt you from the job search requirements because exemptions are only granted for short term conditions.
The basis for maintaining a policy position denying a person the DSP when the person has been deemed under the same policy to have a ‘permanent disability’ which prevents them from working appears illogical and one that results in consequences which must surely be unintended by the very safety net that the DSP is intended to provide.
In 2014 it was reported that as many as one in twenty Australian’s of working age receive the DSP. Reports in recent weeks of the growth in successful DSP applications for those struggling with obesity and addiction raised the ire of many older Australians. One such perspective:
It would appear, if you are addicted to drugs, an alcoholic, or obese (all due to lack of discipline and restraint) you meet the eligible criteria for Disability Support Pension at the taxpayers expense.
If you have worked in paid employment for forty years, cared for family and extended family members mentally and physically and provided financial assistance to same to resist the embarrassment of access to the Welfare System, only to find your own body is now diagnosed with permanent disabilities, and over 63 years of age – you are not eligible for Disability Support Pension. Also, you can no longer access your prepaid “Age Pension” which should have been available at age 54 for women and 55 years for men. Instead, you are placed on Newstart – have to apply for 12 jobs per fortnight – meet with a provider once a fortnight and receive approximately $300 a fortnight less than Disability Support Pension – $300 less than the “Aged Pension” which you prepaid during your working life of four decades and ought to have been eligible to access at 54 for women and 55 years for men.
No matter how you twist and turn this situation, it is apparent that this age group is being severely punished for been hard workers, frugal, making Australia an economically strong country, looking after themselves and others, contributing to the community and trusting the government with their prepaid pension (which successive governments have squandered) and now cry no money!!!! Where is there any Justice? Let alone True Justice!!!?
As Terry Sweetman so aptly described: ‘some people are fighting fit in their 80s, others are bent, broken and ossified in their 40s’.
The arbitrary refusal to grant the DSP to older Australians enduring a disability who have a demonstrable history of work, earning, tax-paying and contributing to broader society in innumerable ways, as was the norm of years gone by, is unjustifiably punitive. It entrenches inequality and contributes to the legitimisation of stereotypes and ageist attitudes that those of advancing years are more of an impost than worthy recipient of benefits.
Discrimination on grounds of age is no more acceptable than discrimination of grounds of race, religion or gender.
Justice doesn’t just happen.
Be Engaged. Be Informed. Be Curious.
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