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Disability pension applicants prejudiced by ‘opaque’ Centrelink process

Centrelink is 'unfair' for those applying for the disability pension, study finds. Source: Getty
Centrelink is 'unfair' for those applying for the disability pension, study finds. Source: Getty

Disability pension (DSP) applicants and recipients face multiple obstacles to claiming their benefits, and feel the process is ‘unfair’ and ‘stressful’, a new report by Monash University has found.

The study led by Monash University’s director of insurance work and health research group, Professor Alex Collie, looked at 248 applicants and receivers of the DSP, and found a whopping 86 per cent of DSP receivers and 96 per cent of applicants found the application process complex.

On top of that, 76 per cent of recipients and 87 per cent of applicants strongly agreed that they needed help to apply for the DSP.

A whopping 91 per cent of recipients and 94 per cent of applicants also disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement ‘It has been easy to get in contact with Centrelink’.

“The major findings really are that people find their interactions with Centrelink to be quite challenging and what we call opaque, which just means they’re not sure how to proceed through the Centrelink processes,” Collie told Yahoo Finance.

Collie said most of the people that responded to the survey were saying the application process was particularly difficult.

“Things like needing a lot of support to apply for Centrelink benefits, not understanding what’s required of them when they’re applying for the disability pension, and finding the application process difficult.”

In addition, Collie said respondents felt that the time taken to make decisions could have been faster, and that when Centrelink did make decisions, it didn’t explain the way decisions were made.

“The most stark findings were that people were finding it very difficult to get in contact with Centrelink - almost everyone, 90 per cent of all the respondents, found it difficult even just to get in touch with them.

“People also say the process was stressful, and that it was having an impact on their relationship with their friends and family.

“At least in the 240 people who completed this survey, there are some pretty consistent messages coming through,” Collie said.

Newstart recipients too sick to work

Collie’s study follows his earlier research, which found Australians receiving unemployment and disability benefits often live with several health conditions and are more likely to go to hospital.

“It’s hard to work when you’re sick. We found large disparities between the health of people receiving Centrelink benefits and wage earners,” Collie said.

“Some of the findings are quite concerning, particularly the high rates of mental health problems experienced by benefit recipients. We also found that disability pensioners had more than double the rate of hospital admissions compared to wage earners.

“People on Newstart were three times more likely to report having at least 10 health conditions,” Collie said.

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