Since my last blog, just after World MS Day, I was delighted to have Andrew Potter feature as a guest blogger and would like to congratulate him on his new role as National Advocacy Coordinator. Exciting things are happening in advocacy and I am pleased to give an update on our latest efforts. We’ve been hard at work reviewing the Australian welfare system and ensuring the voice of people affected by multiple sclerosis is heard. In December last year, the Minister for Social Services (Hon. Kevin Andrews MP) commissioned a review of the welfare system to find improvements, ensuring its sustainability. An independent Reference Group was then appointed to conduct the review. Their Interim Report, ‘A New System for Better Employment and Social Outcomes’, covers four pillars of reform (http://www.dss.gov.au/our-responsibilities/review-of-australia-s-welfare-system/a-new-system-for-better-employment-and-social-outcomes-full-version-of-the-interim-report):
- Simpler and sustainable income support system
- Strengthening individual and family capability
- Engaging with employers
- Building community capacity
The Reference Group requested feedback on this report, and that is exactly what MS Australia has done. You may have seen a call out on our Facebook page a few weeks ago featuring this Interim Report and our encouragement of feedback from the MS community, either directly to the Department of Social Services or by writing to us. We’ve taken all your comments into consideration throughout the drafting process of our response to the report.
In our submission, MS Australia has highlighted and emphasised the following points:
- A welfare system that is flexible and adapts to the needs of people with multiple sclerosis
- The continued provision of the Disability Support Pension (DSP) to people with MS who are no longer able to maintain employment
- The need for government, employers, unions and the health and disability sectors to work together to improve workforce participation rates
- Objecting to periodic reassessment of people with MS currently accessing the welfare system
- Continued support for young carers of people with MS
- Encouragement of incentives for employers to embrace a diversified workplace
- The need for more variety of peer support and psychological support for people with MS
- The introduction of programs that will assist people with MS to transition into part time or flexible working arrangements including the development of policies/procedures for employers
Our submission is now with the Department of Social Services, which will go towards the Reference Group’s development of its Final Report. Thank you to everyone who provided their thoughts on this Interim Report and I look forward to updating you on the progress of the Australian Welfare System Review. Through these submissions we can raise greater awareness of the disease and keep our community top of mind for key decision makers.