Changes in access to Australian Disability Support Benefits during a period of social welfare reform

Alex Collie, Luke R. Sheehan, Tyler J. Lane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The Disability Support Pension (DSP) is the major Australian government financial benefit program for people of working age with medical conditions and disabilities that restrict work capacity. Between 2012 and 2018 a series of policy reforms sought to restrict the growth in DSP payments and encourage more people with some work capacity to seek employment. We characterise changes in three markers of access to disability financial support over the reform period (1) DSP recipient rates (2) DSP grant (approval) rates and (3) the rate of unemployment benefit receipt in people with impaired work capacity. Results demonstrate a significant reduction in DSP receipt and grant rates, and significant increase in the rate of unemployment benefit receipt in working-age Australians with work disabling medical conditions and disability. These changes were not distributed uniformly. People whose primary medical condition was a musculoskeletal or circulatory system disorder demonstrated greater declines in DSP receipt and grant rates, while there was a more rapid increase in unemployment benefit receipt among people with primary mental health conditions. Some trend changes occur in periods during which new disability assessment and pension eligibility policies were introduced, though our ability to attribute changes to specific policy changes is limited.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-154
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Social Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Disability support pension
  • Keywords:
  • Mental health conditions
  • Musculoskeletal conditions
  • Social policy
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Work disability

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