How is eligibility for disability support determined?

How do policymakers in Australia and Canada determine eligibility for Disability Income Support (DIS)?

Visiting Fellow Dr Ashley McAllister interviewed 45 policymakers in Australia and Canada between March 2012 and September 2013, who were influential in the design or assessment of Disability Income Support.

Our results found that the policymakers in both jurisdictions define a suitable person as having as an ‘ideal type’ of disability with five features – visibility, diagnostic proof, permanency, recognition as a medical illness and perceived as externally caused. Many of the policymakers described how mental illnesses are not an ‘ideal type’ of disability for DIS by juxtaposing the features of mental illnesses against physical illnesses. As such, mental illnesses were labelled imperfect disabilities and physical illnesses as ‘ideal type’ for DIS.

The rise of DIS recipients has divided the once protected ‘deserving’ category of the disabled into more (‘ideal type’ of disability) and less deserving (imperfect disability).

Such conceptualisations are important because these categories can influence the allocation of welfare resources.

This summary is based on the original article which can be accessed here:

McAllister, A (2019). Mental illnesses are not an ‘ideal type’ of disability for disability income support: Perceptions of policymakers in Australia and Canada. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. https://doi.org/10.1177/1403494818816903

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Dr Ashley McAllister