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Just under half the number of working-age people with a disability are employed in Australia — compared to 80% without a disability. People living with disabilities face heightened rates of psychological distress and poor health. Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations’ Global Goals, including goal 10 for reduced inequalities. Join the movement and take action on this issue and more here.

The number of young Australians with disabilities living in poverty after being made to survive on “inadequate” income support has skyrocketed, according to new findings obtained by advocacy organisation Children and Young People with Disability (CYDA). 

New data shows that, since 2009, the number of young people with disabilities looking for work, receiving JobSeeker payments and classified with a “partial capacity to work” has increased by over 370%. The number of students with a disability and a partial capacity to work aged between 20 and 25 on the Youth Allowance payment has likewise increased by almost 1,000%. 

Disability-rights advocate and Australian Senator Jordan Steele-John said the figures are “shocking, but not at all surprising.”

Steele-John said the spike in the number of Australians surviving on below-the-poverty-line welfare benefits could be attributed to the changes made to the Disability Support Pension in 2012. Access to the Disability Support Pension, which is hundreds of dollars more a fortnight than JobSeeker or Youth Allowance, is now only available to people without a specific “severe impairment” after 18 months of job searching.

"Back in 2012, we warned the Gillard government that their proposed changes to the Disability Support Pension would have the net result of kicking thousands of disabled Australians into poverty, and entrench poverty for a generation of young people transitioning into adulthood,” Steele-John wrote in a media release Monday.

CYDA has now joined Labor, the Greens, the Reserve bank and welfare and business lobby groups to call on the government to increase income support payments and help children and young people with disabilities thrive. Among the key recommendations: Leaders must prioritise poverty alleviation and develop new employment strategies.

“Australia has a wicked problem where young people with disability face well-known disadvantage in securing a meaningful job because of systemic discrimination in their education and post-school transition, yet we punish them by forcing them to live below the poverty line,” CYDA CEO Mary Sayers said in a media release. “That’s why we are calling on the Australian Government to increase Youth Allowance and JobSeeker for those with partial capacity to work and develop and implement a targeted National Youth Disability Employment Strategy plus COVID-19 youth recovery responses.”

On Tuesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison became the first leader in almost three decades to issue a permanent real-term raise to the previous $40 a day rate of the JobSeeker payments, as well as the Youth Allowance payments.

The JobSeeker payment was increased by $3.57 a day.

Individuals receiving the benefit will now get $615.70 a fortnight — a figure still hundreds of dollars below the relative Australian poverty line for a single person.

Morrison also introduced a new hotline for companies to report unemployed Australians who refuse to accept job offers — a move business and welfare groups say is incredibly dangerous as it could pressure people with a disability to accept unsafe work or make women feel forced to take on positions from “sleazy” employers.


Demand Equity

Number of Young Australians With Disabilities Living on Poverty-Level Welfare Spikes More Than 300%

By Madeleine Keck