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Thursday, 18 April 1985
Page: 1213

Senator CROWLEY —Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security aware of the problem confronting disabled people in sheltered employment when they marry or are judged to be living in a de facto relationship; that is, the sheltered employment allowance is considerably reduced to the spouse, usually the woman, which is financially disadvantaging and restricting her independence? Is the Department giving consideration to any change in these provisions, particularly when those spouses continue to work in sheltered workshops?

Senator GRIMES —When a person who is in receipt of a sheltered employment allowance marries, the amount of the allowance that is payable to that person commences to be determined after taking into account the private income available to that new family unit for its support. This is precisely the same principle that applies, and has applied since the social security system started in this country, to all other social security payments. Therefore, when the private income of the couple exceeds $50 a week the maximum amount of the allowance is reduced by $1 per week for every $2 per week of excess income. Similarly, when the private income of a couple exceeds $98 per week the client ceases to be eligible for fringe benefits. That situation applies to all social security benefits. It certainly applies to sheltered employment allowances. It means that the total assistance given to the married or de facto couple is less than twice that available to each individually, but that is the system which has applied in this country for a long time, as I said. I will seek from the Minister for Social Security further information as to what else is available to people under the sheltered employment system-I do not have it all in my mind at the moment-but I am sure that the basic principles I have outlined are true.