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The impact of income on DSP

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What some people think

Many people with intellectual disability who receive the Disability Support Pension (DSP) think they will lose money if they work and earn an income. Sometimes people are even told it’s good to be paid very low wages so that they don’t affect their DSP.

You are always better off if you earn an income

The Australian Government wants people with intellectual disability to be able to work. The DSP rules let people work up to 29 hours a week without losing their payment. In 2020, a single person aged 21 or over could earn $1,033.30 a week before they would stop receiving their DSP.

You can learn more about the DSP rules on the Services Australia website.

How does earning an income impact the DSP?

For every dollar a person earns over a certain amount (in 2022, this was $180 a week), they lose 50 cents of their DSP.

This means the person is 50 cents better off for every dollar that they earn. Here are some examples:

  • If someone earns $0 a fortnight, then their total income is just their DSP.
  • If someone earns $180 a fortnight, then their total income is their DSP + $180.
  • If someone earns $580 a fortnight, then their total income is their (DSP – $200) + $580 = some DSP + $580. Their DSP payment is reduced by $200 because they have earned more than $180 a fortnight. However, they still end up with more money.

So, working actually means that people will have a higher income.

The two-year rule

If a person works 30 hours or more a week, or earns more than the cut-off limit, then their DSP is suspended. However, the payment is held open for up to two years in case the person needs to access it again. This means people are registered and approved for the DSP if they need it and won’t need to reapply for it within those two years. They will just need to tell Centrelink about their change in circumstances for the payments to start again.

If a person loses their DSP because they’re working more than 30 hours a week, they will still be able to use their Concession Card for one year after their DSP payments stop.

You can read more about the DSP income test and cut-off limit on the Services Australia website.

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