Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The age of entitlement, welfare and Abbott Government spin

The Abbott Government has been drip feeding the mainstream media 'facts' about Disability Support Pension (DSP) recipients ever since it took office.

It is obviously insisting that people receiving this pension have now reached record levels, because News Corp journalist and former press secretary to Liberal Treasurer Peter Costello Nikki Savva reading from notes on ABC Insiders program on 2 March 2014 cited the record level as 823,000.

Elsewhere in media the figures most often quoted range between 825,000 and 832,000.

Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews cites the higher figure, 832,000, on 22 February 2014 - which would see an additional 10,262 person receiving a DSP pension between June 2013 and February 2014. 

However, Minister Andrews has been careful not to publish on the Internet any link to this figure and he cited a different figure of 822,000 DSP pension recipients on 22 December 2013 - which would indicate that 10,000 people were granted this pension in the space of less than 9 weeks (including December-January Centrelink 6 closure days) up to 22 February 2014.

Given the Abbott Government's track record in spinning numbers, one would be foolish to rely on Minister Andrew's accounting without independent verification.

According, the only document that can be relied upon is an Australian Government Department of Social Services' June 2013 report, which indicates that the record level occurred in 2011-12 with 827,460 DSP recipients and due to reforms under the previous Labor Federal Government pensioner numbers had reached negative growth by mid-2013:

As at June 2013, the number of people receiving DSP was 821,738. The number of 
DSP recipients decreased by 5,722 (-0.7 percent) between June 2012 and June 2013. 

Dept. of Social Services June 2013

The overall grant rate for DSP pensions had fallen to 43.3 percent in 2012-13.

While 41.6 per cent of all DSP recipients are on this pension for less than 10 years.

Between June 2012 and June 2013 20,574 people ceased receiving a DSP pension and did not go onto any other form of welfare payment. This figure includes deceased recipients.

Another fact that the Abbott Government chooses to ignore is that the Disability Support Pension is a relatively small part of the overall welfare expenditure pie at $15 billion compared with $26 billion in Family Tax Benefit, $37 billion in Age Pensions and $62 billion for health services:

Grattan Institute, 29 January 2014
In fact growth across total welfare payment numbers (excluding persons on the age pension) has been trending down for some time now, as Greg Jericho points out.

So the age of entitlement (if there ever was one) ended a while back in Australia, and if you hear any politician utter such a line, be aware they are feeding you manure and calling it chocolate. [Greg Jericho, ABC The Drum, 5 February 2014]

Perhaps the next time readers are faced with media reports alleging healthy young adults are 'rorting' the system, as the Prime Minister suggests in interviews with certain radio shock jocks such as Ray Hadley, they might recall that in June 2013 the biggest age group receiving a disability support pension were those 60 to 65 years and over.

When it comes to other stereotypes found in the media it also does well to remember that most DSP pensioners are single, separated, divorced or widowed, 91.7 per cent have no additional income, 71.9 per cent don't own a home, 76.4 per cent of all DSP pensioners are Australian-born citizens and, in June 2013 approximately 89,889 of those on this pension either had acquired brain impairment, cancer/tumour, an endocrine & immune system condition, congenital abnormalities or were blind/deaf.

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