An Australian woman who suffers from multiple sclerosis is petitioning the Australian government to end the travel restrictions placed on recipients of the Disability Support Pension (DSP). Her petition has gathered more than 27,688 signatures.
Australians who receive the DSP are only allowed to travel internationally 28 days per year — something Care2 petition author Rachael Thomas believes is unfair.
“I am a recipient of Disability Support Pension (DSP), and I am unable to see my boyfriend in Europe because of this rule,” Thomas writes on her petition. “I believe this infringes on my human rights and the equal rights of every Australian who receives the DSP.”
Thomas says she was informed her DSP benefits would be cut if she spent a few months in Europe visiting her boyfriend.
“Disabled Australians shouldn’t have to choose between seeing their loved ones abroad and having enough money to feed themselves,” Thomas told Care2.
Thomas also points out that the disabled generally need longer to see a place than the able-bodied. Further, “the able-bodied who are not on disability or old age pension can stay in Europe for 6 months and the UK for 12 months,” she writes. “This is inequality at its finest.”
The Australian government allows some exceptions to the 28-day rule; for instance, if the recipient is “studying outside Australia as part of a full time Australian course,” is fulfilling a humanitarian purpose or attending to an acute family crisis,among others.
“The government justifies this rule by painting ALL DSP recipients as welfare cheaters who are living overseas while receiving payments from Australia,” Thomas writes. “In reality, we are simply human beings who do not deserve to have our mobility further limited by arbitrary standards set by the government.”
Many who have signed the petition included comments alongside their signatures:
“I am disabled. To travel to see my family in the UK takes a horrendous toll on my body and it takes me days just to get over it. This change is now stealing precious time with my family from me….including time getting to know my grandchildren.” – Helen W., Figtree, Australia
“I’m on DSP and I’m going to New Zealand in November for 14 days. That’s half my allowance. Maybe I just won’t bother coming back?” – Peter D., Wyoming, Australia
“I am a disabled Australian in a relationship with a Canadian, by limiting my travel you are threatening my relationship.” – Mathew G., Armidale, Australia
“I would like to see my homeland, Spain, one more time before I die and I too think it is totally UNFAIR that we only get less than 1 month to travel overseas before our pension is cut off!! I think you need more than 28 days if you need to travel to the other side of the world.” – Maria J., Logan, Australia
“People with a disability need more support from government, not more constraints. Time to treat people with equity and fairness.” – David L., Carlingford, Australia