DSP Help is a free resource to help people understand the Disability Support Pension and make better applications and appeals.
The Integrated Services Project (ISP) is a partnership between FCVic and Social Security Rights Victoria (SSRV). It is improving client outcomes through financial counsellors and social security lawyers working together more effectively. SSRV has two other specialist projects: The Family Violence Project and Disability Support Pension (DSP) Help Project. This month, we’re excited to tell you about the DSP Help Project.
The DSP Help Project exists to help DSP applicants and those that support them by using online resources and wrap around legal service. DSP Help aims to help people understand the DSP, the eligibility criteria, how to get suitable medical evidence, and how to approach an application.
Niamh* is a young person living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and associated mental health conditions. Niamh struggles to engage with the world, spending most of each day in a darkened room and avoiding interacting with people. Niamh needs assistance from her father Tadhg* to ensure her nutrition, hygiene, and other needs are met. Without this help, Niamh would not remember to eat or change her clothes.
Niamh has no work history since leaving school. Niamh has tried to engage with tertiary education several times, but due to concentration and memory issues has never been able to stick with it. Niamh needs income support as without it she would not be able to earn any money.
Tadgh assisted Niamh with an application for the DSP. The application was initially rejected by Centrelink, then rejected it again at the internal review stage. Tadgh sort help for Niamh from SSRV. SSRV were able to assist by representing Niamh at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Niamh was found to be eligible for the DSP, which was granted with backpay to the original application date.
Throughout SSRV’s engagement Tadgh described the challenge of not only getting medical evidence to support Niamh’s application and appeal but getting doctors to give useful evidence. Many of the reports were general in nature, and not tailored to the DSP eligibility criteria. Until speaking to SSRV Tadgh didn’t have the knowledge and understanding of the DSP to ask the doctors the right questions.
Tadgh was consulted during the DSP Help design process and noted that had this resource been available when Niamh first applied for the DSP she may have been successful earlier and not needed to appeal.
Leveraging DSP Help in Financial Counselling
SSRV hears many queries from Financial Counsellors about the DSP. Like Niamh and Tadgh in the case study above, almost everybody finds the processes in applying for the DSP challenging, the eligibility criteria are complex, and success often depends on the quality of medical evidence.
The DSP Help online tool provides information about DSP eligibility criteria, how to gather medical evidence, how to apply for the DSP, and what to do if an application is rejected, all in one place. Financial counsellors are invited to use it to better understand the DSP and to inform clients about eligibility and how to improve their application. It is a tool that individuals can use independently or with a financial counsellor.
DSP Help is not just a website. SSRV offers a ‘wrap around’ legal service, – including advice and representation, to individuals who may require further assistance in navigating the system and in appealing unfavourable decisions. Individuals can contact SSRV via the General Advice Line. Financial counsellors can obtain information or secondary consultation, or make a referral through SSRV’s Worker Help Line. (see below for contact details). The DSP Help Project is funded by the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner Grants Program.
SSRV is committed to integrated service provision, so we welcome the opportunity to explore how our lawyers may most effectively work with financial counsellors to address individual client legal and related matters, including DSP applications and appeals.
Continuing Professional Development
SSRV is offering workshops about the Disability Support Pension and DSP Help for financial counsellors and other professionals who are assisting clients with DSP matters. Keep an eye on the FCVic Events Calendar.
Our current Centrelink Debt series of the Continuous Professional Development (CPD) program is progressing well. The next unit in the series Centrelink debts and how to appeal them is on 1 September 2020 where we look at how to examine documents obtained through Freedom of Information, applying the law, and tips on writing a review request to have debts decisions reconsidered. Registrations are open now, and we’d love to see you there!
FCVic Events Calendar
Get in touch
The DSP help project is at https://dsphelp.org.au/
Contact Community Lawyer Dermott Williams ([email protected]) at SSRV to discuss the DSP Help Project and related services and activities.
The Integrated Services Project is available to work with Financial Counsellors on DSP and other social security matters too: Contact Community Lawyer Karl Schaffarczyk ([email protected]) to obtain assistance or discuss working together to improve client outcomes.
We are keen to hear from financial counsellors about their experience assisting clients with the DSP, and how we can improve our resources for financial counsellors.
Financial counsellors are invited to call the SSRV Worker Help Line (0429 450 346*/ 03 9481 0655 – 9.00am-5.00pm, Monday – Thursday) for information and support in assisting clients with Centrelink matters and to make referrals to SSRV.
Individuals can be referred the SSRV General Advice Line (0419 793 652*/ 03 9481 0355), which is operating between 9.30am -12.30pm, Monday to Thursday).
These are the primary pathways for intake and assessment for further legal casework and representation services.
*Direct mobile phone numbers to telephone advice services while SSRV delivers services remotely during the COVID-19 response period. Calls to the usual numbers will be diverted to these mobile numbers.