Australian council of social services measures poverty in Australia by using the Henderson poverty line. The most commonly used poverty line is that people living on an after-tax household income below one-half of the median level income is considered as living in poverty (Carson & Kerr 2017; Davidson, Bradbury & Wong 2020). People with unemployment, public housing tenants, people with disabilities, children of the sole parent, single women, people receiving social security as the main source of income, and people aged 65 years and over are the most vulnerable groups to poverty in Australia. The reasons for vulnerability are unemployment, high property rents as compared to rent assistance payments to tenants, physical disability, and caring roles of the main earner who is a single parent (Davidson, Bradbury & Wong 2020). This essay will focus on people with disabilities living in poverty.
People with disabilities along with core activities limitations are at above-average risk of poverty. 19% of adults with core activity limitations due to disability are living in poverty in Australia. There are various contributing factors which precipitates people with disabilities to a high risk of poverty. One of the main factors is the weaker employment prospects. People with physical and mental disabilities face difficulties in finding employment that meets their needs (Davidson, Bradbury &Wong 2020). Additional expenses to participate in the workforce such as workplace modification according to the needs of a person with disability restrict the number of employment opportunities. Moreover, people with disabilities are at high risk to face employment obstacles such as attitudinal barriers and discrimination at work (Rohwerder 2015). Therefore, this group depends upon income support payments such as Disability Support Pension and Jobseeker Payments. People with disabilities have been shifted to low Jobseeker Payment because eligibility to apply for Disability Support Pension has tightened (Davidson, Bradbury &Wong 2020). In addition to this, people with disabilities have higher costs of living. Additional expenses such as medication cost, purchase of special mobility and transfer aids, access to disability accessible housing, transport facilities, and home services for personal care. Lower income along with the higher cost of living makes disabled people more vulnerable to poverty. People with core activities limitations are dependent on family members for care, which in turn has a great impact on the financial stability of the whole family as carers can only involve in part-time work due to their caring responsibilities (Soldatic & Sykes 2017).
The commonwealth government provides income support to people with disability and their carers through disability-related payment and allowance such as Disability Support Pension, sickness allowance, a mobility allowance, and continence aids assistance schemes. In addition to this, the Commonwealth government has responsibilities to provide employment opportunities to people with disabilities as well as services and support through Commonwealth Rehabilitation services (Davidson, Bradbury &Wong 2020). Despite these expenditures, disability advocacy groups claimed that the current income support system is inadequate to meet the real costs of disabilities. According to the Australian council of social services (2020), disability support pension is a base allowance and does not consider the specific needs of the people related to their disabilities. Different disabilities have different non-discretionary expenditures which are not considered by disability support pension, it provides the same basic income support regardless of different additional costs (Davidson, Bradbury &Wong 2020). In addition to this, the Australian Federation of Disability Organizations stated that income support payments such as Newstart payments for people with disabilities are low, relative to the poverty line. High housing costs and additional modification for people with disability is another source of increased poverty. Rental assistance provided to people with disability living in private rental accommodations only cover one-third of the actual rental cost. Government-funded Home and Community Care (HACC) services for people with disabilities are difficult to access because of hard eligibility requirements which make this service inadequate to meet the needs of people with various disabilities. Consequently, people are forced to buy these services from the open market with additional cost (Davidson, Bradbury &Wong 2020). The government tends not to introduce equity-based measures to reduce poverty in people with disabilities. One of the main reasons is to keep people with disabilities with a partial capacity to work, participate in the workforce instead of relying on Newstart or Youth allowance (Commonwealth of Australia 2014).
One in six people in Australia with disabilities are living in poverty (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare2019). The government of Australia should take appropriate actions to reduce poverty in people with disabilities. Australian council of social services proposed that the government should introduce Costs of Disability Supplement which would assist people with disabilities, with additional costs associated with their disabilities. Supplement payment to the Disability Support Pension covers the cost of mobility component, communication component, and housing modifications according to disability requirements (Commonwealth of Australia 2014). In addition to this, the physical disability council proposed the introduction of a basic income support payment plan which should be available to all people with disability. Disability Cost of Living Allowance as supplementation of a new plan would be available to all employed as well as unemployed people with disability who faces additional cost due to disability, without the need of Means test (Commonwealth of Australia 2014). Employment of people with disabilities is a key to reduce poverty in this sector. Commonwealth should take an affirmative action plan to introduce reserve quotas for the employment of people with disabilities. Commonwealth and the States should increase employment opportunities and the provision of more traineeships of people with disabilities in the public sector. Commonwealth government and the States should also implement strategies to provide employment opportunities for disabled people in private sectors (Commonwealth of Australia 2014). The government should pay more attention to the specific educational requirements of students with disabilities by providing courses in accessible, affordable, and flexible ways. Student services should be strengthened and funded adequately to meets the educational needs of students with a disability (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2019).
In conclusion, people with disabilities are more vulnerable to poverty due to lesser employment opportunities and higher cost of living due to additional costs associated with mobility, transfer, medications, and carer needs. The government of Australia provides various income support programs to people with disability and their carer. Despite that, continuous revision of these programs, policies, and plans is required to meet the growing needs of people with disabilities living in poverty. Commonwealth Government should pay more attention to educational and employment opportunities to reduce poverty among people with disabilities.
Australian Federation of Disability Organisations. n.d. Poverty and disability- Fast facts, viewed 09 September 2020, https://www.afdo.org.au/disability-support-pension/poverty-and-disabilityfastfacts/#:~:text=Just%20under%204%20of%20the,in%2010%20Australians%20without%20disability.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019, People with disability in Australia, viewed 09 September 2020, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/disability/people-with-disability-in-australia
Carson, E. and Kerr, L., 2017. Australian social policy and the human services. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Commonwealth of Australia 2014, Bridging our growing divide: inequality in Australia The extent of income inequality in Australia, viewed 09 September 2020, https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Community_Affairs/Income_Inequality/Report
Davidson, P., Bradbury, B., and Wong, M. 2020, Poverty in Australia 2020: Part 2, Who is affected? ACOSS/UNSW Poverty and Inequality Partnership Report No. 4, Sydney: ACOSS.
Soldatic, K. and Sykes, D., 2017. Poverty and people with a disability. Thinking About Poverty, pp.189-207.
Rohwerder, B. 2015. Disability inclusion, viewed 09 September 2020, https://gsdrc.org/topic-guides/disability-inclusion/
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