People receiving a benefit because they have a health condition or disability, or care for a person with a health condition or a disability, make up 53% of all working-age benefit recipients. Many have poor outcomes. Many receiving a health and disability benefit have mental health conditions that are not well supported. Ill-health and disability caused by a variety of social, economic, psychological and biomedical factors may make it more difficult to access the welfare system. Unemployment has a detrimental impact on the health and wellbeing of benefit recipients. However, policy responses have had a limited impact on improving outcomes for recipients of health and disability benefits, and long-term receipt of such benefits is common.
People with health conditions or disabilities in the welfare system receive much less generous, means-tested payments and face difficulties accessing health services, compared with those eligible for accident compensation. The amount of financial assistance that people may receive from the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) is usually higher than that provided by MSD for the same level of incapacity. Some people with health conditions and disabilities not caused by an accident miss out on income and return-to-work support from ACC or MSD due to couples-based eligibility rules for financial assistance.
Single people receiving a benefit are at significant risk of having an inadequate income. Most people in receipt of health and disability benefits are single. A significant cost is associated with having a health condition or disability or being a carer of a person with a health condition or a disability. However, the system response has been inadequate and welfare recipients must navigate the complexity of the health and welfare systems to attempt to get all the support they are entitled to.
For people with health conditions and disabilities, engagement in good, suitable work, when the time is right, supports wellbeing. However, the welfare system has had limited impact on supporting people with health conditions or disabilities into sustainable work. Support for carers of people with health conditions and disabilities to return to paid work when their circumstances allow is also limited in the social security system.
We propose improving the health and wellbeing of people with health conditions and disabilities, along with carers of people with health conditions and disabilities who interact with the welfare system, through the: