I’m disabled as a result of being plowed off my motorcycle by a drink driver some years ago. Some people seem to think that having a disability is a sort of privilege. I’m MORE than happy to swap lives (and legs) with any of those fools who are willing to volunteer for the exchange!
Somewhere along the line, a ridiculous rumour was started in Australia indicating that recipients of disability support pensions (DSPs) are afflicted with imaginary ‘bad backs’ and thus fraudulently and easily obtain a well-paid ‘free ride on the taxpayers’ backs.’
This sort of ‘downward envy’ is based in mis- or disinformation. Most Aussies don’t really know how much disability pensioners are actually paid, nor what sort of disablity is actually required to qualify for a payment.
Further, a similar baseless belief is common in all nations which provide supports for people with disabilities. I clearly recall the furphy of the ‘welfare Cadillac’ from when I was a kid in the USA in the 1970s. It’s not just an Australian thing.
The HoWARd government has been trying to reduce the numbers of DSP recipients for years. With the Lieberals’ newfound majority in the Senate effective 1 July 2005, HoWARd’s Lieberal Party is poised to jerk the rug out from people with disabilities and attempt to get them back to work.
Let’s hope there’s a miracle worker or two in the HoWARd camp, because telling a disabled person to just ‘get up and go back to work’ will require nothing short of a few miracles!
Okay, let’s start from the start:
- How much are Australian disability pensioners actually paid?
The maximum disability pension payment a person over age 18 with no children may receive is $476.30 per fortnight. DSP recipients may also receive rent assistance. The maximum rent assistance is $98.00 per fortnight. The sum is $574.30 per fortnight or $287.15 per week. Add up what you pay in rent or mortgage payments- and then tell me how well you would be living on $287 per week. I’ll clue ya, you don’t live ‘high on the hog.’ You mind every cent.
- What sort of disability must one have to qualify for a DSP?
It requires an awful lot more than just a ‘sore back’ to obtain a DSP. If you only have a problem with your back, you would have to be unable to sit comfortably in a chair long enough to perform most common office workplace tasks. Most DSP recipients (like me) have multiple disabilities which contribute to their inability to work.
- How many hours per week must one be able to work to qualify for a DSP?
Under current Centrelink DSP regulations, a person with disabilities who cannot work more than 30 hours per week and whose disabilities will persist for more than two years will qualify for the payment. The HoWARd government wants to change that qualification to 15 hours per week. This means that if you can work 16 hours per week, you will no longer qualify for a payment under HoWARd’s proposals. Doubters can get out their calculators again- divide your per-annum pay rate by 1800 (37.5 hours per week x 48 weeks = 1800 hours in a standard Australian working year). You now have your gross hourly wage. Multiply by 16. There’s the PRE-TAX amount you will earn if working only 16 hours per week at your current pay rate.
Let’s work out the figures using the average wage for NSW residents in the financial year 2000-2001, which is $37,191 per annum. Your pre-tax earnings will be around $330 per week. After tax, you should have around $215 per week. Can you live on $215 per week?
Further, just going to work is expensive. If you have a physical disability, you can forget about using public transport, even if it is available in your area. If you live in Sydney, have a car and drive to and from work daily, you’ll spend at least $50 per week on fuel. You can then add the actual cost of a car including repairs and normal maintenance, insurance and the price of the car. Even driving the least expensive old shitbox you can find will cost you a minimum of around $3500-5000 per year.
What I’m getting at is that Australian DSP recipients are definitely NOT getting fat and sassy on a DSP payment. We do not drive new cars (Cadillacs or otherwise), we don’t go out to restaurants often, we can’t go to movies every week (or every month!) and we definitely can’t splash out big on alcohol at the pub every Friday.
Put simply, if you believe that being disabled is a privilege, you have not done the maths!
And by the way, if I ever find your car parked in a disabled access parking space without a valid permit (and I check every car in in such spaces!), be prepared to confront a $130-220 parking ticket. I’m particularly militant about disabled access parking… I will park you in and I will search up a Parking Ranger and see to it you are cited!
Disabled access parking spaces are NOT ’5 minute parking’ for able bodied people who can’t find a legal parking space, are dropping off kids or returning videos at the video shop. Just because a disabled access space isn’t occupied now doesn’t mean that the space won’t be needed by a disabled person in the next 5 minutes. If you are able bodied, you CAN manage to walk a half a block to drop off your video. I can not!
Being LATE is not a disability! Being LAZY is not a disability!
Get your head wrapped around the idea that disabled people are afforded certain advantages because they could not otherwise live in our communities. That’s the whole nature of having a disability- needing a little help to be able to live in community with others. If you can’t accept that there really are disabled people in your community- you should go bush- and not come back.
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