Why Extended Time on Newstart is Unsuitable for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians Living with a Disability

Michelle S. Fitts, Karen Soldatic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Many Australians living with a disability find themselves recipients of Newstart Allowance when applying for the Disability Support Pension (DSP). Newstart Allowance is designed as a short-term payment for people looking for work, with a lower fortnightly payment and limited medical and transport subsidies compared to the DSP. This paper describes the financial challenges of living with a disability while on Newstart Allowance. With a focus on the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) Australians from two regional towns, qualitative semistructured interviews and focus groups documented experiences of 39 community members and 21 medical and nonmedical service providers supporting clients living with a disability on Newstart Allowance. Four themes were identified: (i) living with severe financial hardship, (ii) challenges complying with the DSP application, (iii) being financially penalised for not complying with Newstart Allowance conditions, and (iv) supporting community members to manage severe financial stress. Although people living with a disability on Newstart were experiencing severe hardship and poverty, there was limited participation of Centrelink-employed social workers within their described experiences with Centrelink. We argue that social workers can work to humanise human service settings and potentially help to mitigate these financial challenges. IMPLICATIONS Indigenous Australians living with a disability experience severe disadvantage and poverty while living on Newstart Allowance. Social workers must be easily accessible at Centrelink customer service centres and to Newstart Allowance recipients to help coordinate service engagement. Newstart Allowance should be increased to ensure recipients can respond to cost of living pressures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-203
Number of pages13
JournalAustralian Social Work
Volume73
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes

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