NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Disability support : Ombudsman publishes report on Accessibility of Disability Support Pension for remote Indigenous Australians

damian-griffis-first-peoples-disability-network-overcoming-barriers-to-meaningful-participation-for-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-people-with-disab

 ” This report focuses on the experiences of one particular vulnerable group—Indigenous people living in remote areas. Remote Indigenous Australians face significant disadvantage and unique cultural barriers in accessing a range of government services, including DSP.

The qualification criteria for DSP set a high bar and the claim process is rigorous. Even those applicants who are familiar with the income support and health systems say they find the DSP claim process complex, lengthy and confusing.

Complaints made to our office, along with the anecdotal feedback provided by peak bodies, advocates and community organisations, show that Indigenous people living in rural and remote Australia experience particular difficulty in preparing applications for DSP and meeting the high standard of evidence. “

Download the report here :

accessibility-of-dsp-for-remote-indigenous-australians_final-report

damian-griffis-first-peoples-disability-network-overcoming-barriers-to-meaningful-participation-for-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-people-with3-disab

 ” FPDN’s vision is a just and inclusive society, in which First Peoples living with disability are respected and valued for their culture, history and contribution to contemporary life, and in which their human rights are recognised, respected, protected and fulfilled.

First Peoples Disability Network is governed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with disability. FPDN is a member of the Disabled People’s Organisations Australia (DPO) alliance.”

Check out FPDN website

Press Release

Commonwealth Ombudsman, Colin Neave AM, released his report today into the accessibility of Disability Support Pension (DSP) for remote Indigenous Australians.

The Ombudsman’s inquiry responded to complaints from Indigenous Australians living in remote areas who were experiencing issues claiming DSP and with the assessment processes used by the Department of Human Services (DHS).

“We found remote Indigenous Australians face several barriers when claiming DSP. It is harder to access medical services, get appropriate medical evidence to support their claims and engage with DHS’s job capacity and medical assessment processes,” Mr Neave said.

The Ombudsman has made a number of recommendations which seek to address these issues.

From Page 31

5.1 Indigenous Australians living in remote areas face significant barriers in accessing DSP, including:

  •  difficulties in accessing appropriate health care
  •  problems obtaining medical evidence from treating doctors and specialists to support their claims
  •  being disadvantaged by not having face-to-face JCAs and DMAs
  •  a differing concept of ‘disability’
  •  difficulties discussing conditions and their functional impact with health professionals in a meaningful way, due to language and cultural barriers.

5.2 The recommendations made in this report are intended to address some of the most significant challenges we consider remote Indigenous Australians face in:

  •  collecting evidence
  •  preparing applications
  •  accessing, and participating in, JCAs and DMAs
  •  anticipating the need for and accessing a program of support where required

“We have recommended ways to improve administration and reduce accessibility barriers facing remote Indigenous DSP claimants. These include recommendations about the way assessments are carried out, the information sought from and given to treating health professionals and better information about DSP eligibility requirements.”

Overall, DHS and the Department of Social Services (DSS), which is responsible for the relevant legislation and policy, responded positively to the investigation, agreeing to all recommendations.

“DHS is taking steps to improve its DSP assessment processes for remote Indigenous Australians, but more needs to be done,” Mr Neave said.

The assistance received from DHS throughout the investigation and report drafting process was also acknowledged by the Ombudsman.

Mr Neave said the Ombudsman’s office would continue to work closely with DHS to monitor the implementation of the recommendations in this report

Executive summary

Over the past twelve months the Ombudsman’s office has investigated a number of cases in which Indigenous people and their advocates have complained about decisions to refuse Disability Support Pension (DSP) claims. We do not usually investigate where, as in most of those cases, a complainant has a right of review. However, the focus of these complaints was the Department of Human Services’ (DHS) assessment process.

The complainants argued that their medical impairments were not properly or appropriately assessed. We decided to investigate their circumstances and examine DHS’s approach.

Over recent years the qualification criteria for the DSP has been significantly revised and tightened. While it is not the role of the Ombudsman’s office to comment on the merits of government policy, it is appropriate that we are alert to situations where the practical application of a policy has unintended consequences.

This includes the potential to create inequitable access or outcomes that are inconsistent with legislative intent and do not reflect the principles of good administrative decision making.

We acknowledge that DHS assesses over 100,000 DSP claims per year. The majority of these are processed without significant cause for complaint by claimants.

However, the experience of the majority should not necessarily be taken as an indication that the process is working for the most vulnerable in the community.

This report focuses on the experiences of one particular vulnerable group—Indigenous people living in remote areas. Remote Indigenous Australians face significant disadvantage and unique cultural barriers in accessing a range of government services, including DSP.

The qualification criteria for DSP set a high bar and the claim process is rigorous. Even those applicants who are familiar with the income support and health systems say they find the DSP claim process complex, lengthy and confusing.

Complaints made to our office, along with the anecdotal feedback provided by peak bodies, advocates and community organisations, show that Indigenous people living in rural and remote Australia experience particular difficulty in preparing applications for DSP and meeting the high standard of evidence required by social security law.

This report centres on complaints about the DSP claim process and uses them to illustrate some of the common challenges Indigenous people living in remote areas of Australia face when making DSP claims. The report provides a snapshot of areas where the DSP assessment process has fallen short.

Although the number of complaints we receive about DSP is small compared to the total number of DSP claims, the challenges faced by remote Indigenous Australians in navigating the DSP claim process are real and the impact of these challenges can be disproportionately large, given the claimants’ particular vulnerabilities.

We acknowledge the initiatives DHS has implemented to improve access to DSP for remote Indigenous Australians. Despite these efforts, we continue to receive similar complaints at the time of publishing this report. The complaints suggest there remains a gap between DHS’s service delivery commitments and the reality experienced by Indigenous people in remote areas.

The report makes recommendations about the job capacity and medical assessment processes, including the way the assessments are carried out and the information given to Commonwealth Ombudsman—Department of Human Services: Accessibility of Disability Support Pension for remote Indigenous Australians and sought from medical professionals providing reports for DSP claims.

We have recommended steps to increase awareness of the eligibility requirements for DSP, including the need for some applicants to have participated in a ‘program of support’. Given the recent changes to the DSP claim process and the programs of continuous improvement which DHS has outlined in response to our investigation, we have also recommended that the department establishes an implementation, monitoring and evaluation framework to assess the effectiveness of those changes.

Our office will continue to work closely with DHS to monitor the implementation of the recommendations in this report

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