Joanne Ryan MP
Federal Member for Lalor
Joanne Ryan MP

The Disability Support Pension

I rise today to share with the House a story from my electorate. There is nothing quite like a week at home in the electorate to catch up with residents and to deepen our understanding of the impacts of policy and direction changes by government. Last week I met with Donna Strong, and I want to tell her story in the parliament today because I think it is indicative of the impact that some of the decisions that we make while we are in Canberra have on people's real lives. Her story best illustrates a theme that I have spoken about before: that decisions that we make or directions that we give to people who work actively and face-to-face with our clients in social services are absolutely critical.

Donna has hereditary spastic paraplegia. This leaves her very weak. To move around at all, she uses crutches, and she is in constant pain. Her life has been complicated because her eldest child, her son, also suffers from HSP. He is also using crutches; he is still mobile enough to move with less pain then his mother but it is gradually becoming worse. She also has a daughter who has just turned six. Donna has been on the single parent pension. She has two siblings with HSP who have been on the Disability Support Pension for many years, but Donna was on the single parent pension. Her daughter has turned six and so Centrelink has determined that she needs to transition to Newstart. This is after two attempts to be granted the Disability Support Pension. This is despite doctors' letters, and despite being granted a motorised scooter—which she will receive soon—that will assist her when she is getting her children to school. Fortunately—after some work by my office and others—both of her children now attend the same prep to year 12 school, so she only has one trip a day to do, getting in and out of the car and making sure her children get to school safely.

I want to talk about what has happened in Donna's life in her dealings with a target to cut people off from receiving the Disability Support Pension. Donna has now compounding mental health issues. Her GP is medicating her because she is incredibly frustrated and incredibly saddened by her dealings with bureaucracy. She feels that she has been punished. This is a person who volunteers for 15 hours a week in our community and who does what she can. This is a person who needs support.

This government, with its cruel attitude to people on the Disability Support Pension, needs to rethink.


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