Senate debates

Thursday, 14 May 2020


Pensions and Benefits

5:42 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise tonight to speak on the government's failure to properly support disabled people and carers during the COVID-19 pandemic. I need to let the government now how abandoned disabled people and carers feel by this government for not including them in the COVID-19 supplement. These are just a few of the hundreds of experiences that have been shared with me over the last few weeks:

Being on DSP is hard enough under normal circumstances. So many of our everyday expenses have at least doubled in the past few weeks—eg grocery prices and added delivery charges because we need to self-isolate and not leave the house.

I still have two kids to care for on my DSP payment. It's not just about me getting more money. I'm raising a family just like those on parenting payment. Why are our children's needs different?

I've seen big increases in food and pharmacy items. Panamax on special at Chemist Warehouse is usually 79c, with the normal price at $2.79. Now it's around $5. I also can't get Ventolin at the moment and I have scripts.

I'm paying $15 per delivery and can only purchase one or two of each item. This means no more bulk-buying to save on delivery fees.

I am unable to access any PPE and struggling to find the essentials, meaning more energy-sapping, running around online. It seems all groceries are full price, barely any specials, which is great for supermarket shareholders but not for us.

Having to try and stock up one month in advance for medication, with no disposable income, is near impossible. It's demoralising not being included in the conversations around COVID-19.

I'm virtually housebound at the moment because I can't risk my weak immune system being compromised. I also have a respiratory condition. I rely on deliveries and my medication costs over $100 a month because the chemist does my packs for me as I am legally blind.

Caring Fairly, a group that advocates and campaigns for carers, recently conducted a survey to see how carers are coping with the crisis—to hear firsthand from carers about the impact of COVID-19 on their health and wellbeing, work income and expenses. One carer noted: 'Due to coronavirus, my respite carers cannot care for the children, as they had to isolate. I have had to resign my job, as I have had no care for the children, who are both disabled. It's very isolating. I am unable to sleep, as I worry about how I'm going to provide for the children. Due to being on carer's payment, I'm not eligible for the $550 supplement payment. This leaves my single-parent family $400 worse off per week compared to other single-parent families with children without disabilities. I have had to delay assessments recommended for my son, as I can't afford them. It is very stressful and isolating.'

The survey that was undertaken by the Caring Fairly group found that, for carer payment recipients who work part-time or are self-employed to supplement their income, 42 per cent had lost some or all of their regular income since the outbreak. Forty per cent said they've had to work fewer hours because they needed to provide extra support to the person they care for and 12 per cent reported losing their job during the pandemic. People on the carer payment also reported significant cost increases associated with the coronavirus. Eighty-six per cent of carers are now spending more money on living costs. The most common increases in living costs are groceries, cleaning and medication. Eighty per cent reported having to spend more money on the person they care for. Many stated the need to pay for essentials to be delivered was a large contributor to these increased costs.

The government simply cannot deny that there are increased costs of living from this pandemic for those on the disability support pension and for those on the carer payment. They are bearing increased costs as well, and they deserve the supplement just like other people who are struggling to make ends meet during this pandemic. (Time expired)