Last updated 5 August 2016
A person may be granted the Disability Support Pension (DSP) if they have a physical, intellectual or psychiatric condition that prevents them from working or allows them to only perform a limited amount of work, or if a person is permanently blind.
To qualify for the DSP, there are multiple requirements, which have become increasingly strict in the past decade.
A person qualifies for the DSP if they fulfil all of the following criteria:
- aged 16 or above and less than the Age Pension age at the time of the claim
- meet the residence requirements
- have a medical condition which has been fully diagnosed, treated and stabilised, and is unlikely to significantly improve with or without reasonable treatment in the next two years
- unable to work more than 15 hours per week for the next two years, and unable to undertake a training activity to prepare for work within the next two years independently of a program of support
- score at least 20 points for their impairment(s) (see Impairment Tables Social Security Act 1991 (Cth) (Social Security Act)).
Applicants who do not score at least 20 points on a single Impairment Table must have participated in a Program of Support (e.g. an employment service or disability support service) for 18 months within three years of applying for the DSP to be eligible. There are limited exceptions to this requirement. Any period you are exempted from your participation requirement (e.g. medical certificates) will not count as active participation in a Program of Support.
To assess eligibility, Centrelink requires a medical report completed by a doctor or specialist regarding the person’s disability, injury or illness. This should include how the condition impacts upon the person’s ability to work.
If the person is applying due to a psychiatric or psychological condition, they must provide a report from a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. People should provide any relevant additional medical information to support their application.
Applicants must also undergo a Job Capacity Assessment (JCA). A JCA is an interview with a Centrelink worker, which assesses whether a person can work, how much work they are able to do and how much assistance they need in order to find and keep a job. The outcome of the JCA will be a notional work capacity range (e.g. 8 to 14 hours).
People who apply for a DSP can receive Newstart Allowance or Youth Allowance as a provisional payment while their application is being processed (s 540A(1)(c) Social Security Act). This will generally happen automatically, but if not, enquiries should be made to Centrelink.
Disability Support Pension reviews
Centrelink conducts regular reviews to ensure that people receiving the DSP continue to qualify for the payment. Qualification for the DSP can be reviewed at any time, and different qualification criteria may apply than those under which the pension was granted. Currently, reviews of all DSP recipients are done against the current Impairment Tables, regardless of how long the person has been on the payment.
If a person is no longer eligible to receive the DSP, their payments will continue for 42 days once they have been notified of the cancellation decision. This is a decision that can be appealed, and a person in this situation should request the continuation of their DSP payments until the appeal is decided (this is called ‘payment pending review’).
Working while on the pension
Depending when you have been assessed for the DSP, you may be able to work up to 30 hours a week and still receive a part pension. Whether a person is able to work and still receive a part pension can be clarified by calling Centrelink. If a person is working more than 30 hours, the DSP payments will be stopped and the person will have to contact Centrelink to have them restarted if they start working less than 31 hours.
Under some circumstances, the DSP can be suspended for up to two years so that an individual can attempt to work. A person needs to reclaim the pension within two years and fourteen days to avoid the need for a new medical assessment.