Posted on 5 September 2021
By Tegan Carrison, Executive Director, AAPi
This coming week, AAPi is appearing before the Senate for the inquiry into the Disability Support Pension (DSP) to provide further evidence in addition to our submission.
It is AAPi's clear stance that the current DSP processes provide restrictions on the practice of psychologists when working with their clients to gain access to disability support pensions. This condition eliminates all psychologists who do not hold clinical endorsement from providing a valid diagnosis. The ability to make diagnoses is a minimum requirement of registration as a psychologist in Australia. Psychologists also use a range of psychometric tests to clarify and support any diagnoses made. This provides a level of objectivity to a psychologists diagnoses and recommendations. Therefore, it is unclear why psychologists are not considered an appropriately qualified practitioner as psychologists undertake a minimum of four years of formal study specifically in mental health.
Until the introduction of the current impairment tables, psychologists were able to write reports regarding clients' mental health conditions or disability to Centrelink as part of their Disability Pension applications or any other matters that they needed support for regarding their mental health. The introduction of these new processes has resulted in restrictions, particularly in psychologists core area of work (mental health), damaging psychologists reputations and public standing. Clients have been told these reports are unsatisfactory, and some have been told that their psychologist was not a real psychologist and they needed to find another one. This is not only distressing and costly for the client but is blatantly untrue and discriminatory towards all psychologists who are not clinically endorsed.
AAPi is concerned that the Government has been provided with misinformation about psychologists skills, which has led to restriction of practice and reduced access for the public to psychological services. This has also blocked some applicants from accessing the Disability Support Pension as there is limited availability of clinical psychologists, neuropsychologists, or psychiatrists in many areas of Australia, particularly in Rural and Remote areas of Australia. In addition, the higher fees charged by these clinicians, compared to registered psychologists, are cost-prohibitive for the majority of Australians with a disability.
Psychologists are no longer listed as professionals who can complete a Carer Payment and/or Allowance SA332A form. These forms must be completed by a medical practitioner, nurse, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, Aboriginal health worker, or ACAT team member. The omission of psychologists from these allied health groupings is confusing and unclear. Psychologists often work with people with autism and other conditions that require these forms to be completed. As psychologists are one of the few professions who can legally diagnose mental health and developmental disorders, psychologists' omission from this group of professionals who can complete these forms is perplexing.
It is imperative that all psychologists are once again able to provide diagnostic reports for their clients, as is consistent with their high level of training and competence. AAPi is fighting to restore the rights of all psychologists and to reduce the barriers faced by clients in gaining the supports they need.