ACT disability groups and general practitioners have split over new government reforms designed to reduce the number of people claiming the disability pension.
From January 1, people with disabilities who want to claim the disability support pension will need to visit a Commonwealth-appointed doctor to prove they are eligible
Advocacy for Inclusion general manager Christina Ryan said the vast majority of people on the support pension were people who seriously needed it and to imply otherwise was marginalising.
She said it would affect people with disabilities who were attempting to find a job.
“It’s not a very positive policy – it reduces people on the pension in the eyes of the community, which makes it harder for them to find jobs,” Ms Ryan said.
“If the government did want people with disabilities to find jobs they’d be working on a jobs plan rather than blaming people for not having a job.”
She said it was exhausting for people with disabilities to constantly have to prove their condition for various government services and departments.
“Whether you’re getting a parking voucher or whether you’re trying to get the NDIS [National Disability Insurance Scheme] or income support, you’re constantly having to prove you have a disability,” Ms Ryan said.
“It’s all about something being wrong with you and having to prove how wrong your life is.”
But Canberra general practitioner Thinus van Rensburg said he thinks the new policy is a good idea.
“We as GPs are often between a rock and a hard place,” he said.
You don’t necessarily agree with what this person wants but you don’t want to upset the patient-doctor relationship.”
Dr van Rensburg said he and other doctors would err on the side of caution rather than lose a patient who may need them in the future.
“Whether they have [a disability] should be the only factor on whether they get the pension, and as a GP we aren’t always in a position to do that [objectively],” he said.
“We can but then next time comes round and they don’t bring their sick kid in and I think, ‘well, maybe if I’d been more lenient last time’.”
Australian Medical Association Council of General Practice chairman Brian Morton said there was a division among some doctors who felt they were in a place to give an opinion as well as a judgement on patients.
But he said he was broadly supportive of the reforms, which he said were a better outcome for overall patient care than putting the pressure on individual GPs.