What is… the Disability Support Pension?


What is… the Disability Support Pension?

The Australian government, through the Department of Social Services, provides a range of payments and income support benefits to Australians in need.

For those suffering from permanent disability or a long-term medical condition, the Disability Support Pension (DSP) pays a regular fortnightly income payment.

According to the 2019-20 Annual Report from the Department of Social Services, 3.9% of Australia’s working age population, or just over three quarters of a million people received the DSP during 2019-20. The total amount paid in benefits was $17.7bn.

Who can get a DSP?

To qualify to receive a DSP, an applicant needs to meet both non-medical and medical rules.

Non-medical rules include a requirement the applicant is older than 15 years and 9 months, but is under their age pension age, they meet residency rules, and satisfy both the income and assets tests.

The medical rules are quite complex and will depend on a person’s physical, mental, and intellectual state of health.

While a DSP may be payable for those with permanent health conditions like blindness and intellectual impairment, a DSP may also be payable where a person suffers from a medical condition that is likely to last for more than 2 years, will prevent that person from working more than 15 hours per week in the next two years, and has an impairment rating of 20 points or more.

This is not an exhaustive list of the medical rules.

Where a person does not qualify for a DSP, they may be eligible for other income support benefits such as the JobSeeker Payment.

How much is the DSP?

The maximum basic rate of DSP, including supplements, for a single person is $967.50 per fortnight, or $1,458.60 per fortnight for a couple combined. Members of a couple who both qualify for a DSP but are separated due to illness each receive the single rate.

If a person is under 21 years of age, the maximum fortnightly rate is less.

In addition to the DSP, a person may also be entitled to receive rental assistance where they don’t own their own home and they pay rent, certain retirement village fees, board and lodgings, or site or mooring fees, where their main home is a caravan, relocatable home, or a boat

The amount of DSP payable is subject to assets and income tests. Once assets or income exceed pre-determined thresholds, the rate of DSP will progressively reduce and will eventually cut out when income or assets exceed certain upper limits. The assets and income tests for the DSP are the same that apply for the Age Pension


The ongoing payment of the DSP is subject to regular reviews.

Not only are assets and income reviewed on a regular basis, with recipients of the DSP required to inform Centrelink of changes to their financial situation within 14 days of a change occurring, but medical reviews are also carried out from time to time to ensure ongoing eligibility to receive the DSP.

DSP and Compensation Payments

From time-to-time people may have the misfortune to suffer ill-health as the result of the action of others, perhaps a motor vehicle, a workplace accident, or the negligent act of another.

In these circumstances the injured person may be entitled to damages to compensate them.

However, it may be many months, or even years, before compensation is agreed to and is paid to the injured person.

It is therefore quite common for a person to claim income support benefits, such as a DSP, to assist them in meeting their income needs before compensation becomes payable.

As a result, if an award for damages is subsequently made, Centrelink will seek to recover overpaid income support benefits.

Concession cards

A person in receipt of a DSP is entitled to a Pensioner Concession Card.

The Pensioner Concession Card entitles a card holder to discounted medicines covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, bulk billed medical treatment (where the treating doctor agrees), and certain other discounts.

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

The NDIS is a national scheme that provides funding for support and services for Australians who have a permanent or significant disability.

The NDIS is quite separate to an income support scheme like the DSP and participating in the NDIS will not affect a person’s entitlement to the DSP, and vice versa.

In many situations a person may be entitled to both the DSP and funding for support and services from the NDIS.

Like many government income support benefits, the DSP is complex, and an individual’s entitlement will be based on their own unique personal circumstances.

For more information on the DSP visit: Disability Support Pension – Services Australia

Blog Authors