By convenor |

Government and Executive Services Branch

Department of Social Services


Dear sir/madam

Thank you for your letter/response (MC17-006035, 20/4/2017) to A4's letter (29/3/2017).

In the previous letter, Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia (known as A4) expressed concern that "the wording that Government uses appears to exclude autistic people from the Disability Support Pension" and asked whether that was the Government's intent. 

The response does not acknowledge nor address A4's concern with the clarity of the wording referred to and how it relates to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Mr Russell de Burgh, Branch Manager, fails to acknowledge (or possibly understand) that ASD could/would be seen as excluded since autism/ASD is not generally regarded as

  1. a physical impairment,
  2. an intellectual impairment, nor
  3. a psychiatric impairment.

The DSM-5 says ASD is a neurological disorder. This suggests that ASD relates to the physical structure of the brain ... but we doubt that Centrelink and DSS would accept that ASD is "physical impairment" for the purpose of DSP eligibility.

ASD of itself is not intellectual disability or impairment. The DSM-5 requires that a DSM-5 diagnosis of ASD state whether or not the person also has or does not have "intellectual disability". Data collected by the ABS indicates that fewer than 30% of people aged 5 to 20 years with "autism" have "intellectual difficulties" at school (see

ASD is not regarded as a psychiatric condition in Australia.

He says "As part of the DSP claim process, individuals provide information about their health conditions". The Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing is adamant that ASD is "a pervasive developmental disability", it is not a "health condition" - see

ASD does not fit in any of the "included" disability types that are documented for DSP eligibility.

It is not clear to us that an autistic person may be eligible for DSP.

Mr de Burgh points out in the response that there are 9,500 DSP recipients with Autistic Disorder and 6,800 DSP recipients with Asperger's Disorder. These terms/labels are from the DSM-IV. The term Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the DSM-5 superseded these diagnostic labels in May 2013 (see He does not say how many DSP recipients have ASD, the current term/label that now includes both the older terms/diagnostic labels. He does not say whether any of those DSP recipients has only ASD (or just those two other conditions) ... or whether they are all eligible due to also having some other "physical, intellectual or psychiatric impairment" ... although I know of a person who only has ASD and gets the DSP.

A4 is aware that ASD is a "spectrum" disorder (it's in the name) and mildly autistic people may not be eligible for DSP. In our experience, people with mild and/or moderate impairment due to their ASD are likely to be in the labour force. The ABS reports that 64.8% of autistic people have " a profound or severe core activity limitation, that is, they need help or supervision with at least one of the following three activities: communication, self-care and mobility". That leaves 35.2% of autistic people with moderate or mild disability.

The ABS estimates that in 2015, the labour force participation rate for autistic people was 40.8% (a bit above 35.2% with mild or moderate disability) leaving about 44,500 autistic people aged 15 to 64 years old who were not in the labour force. 

Mr de Burgh says 16,300 autistic Australians receive the DSP, which suggests that in 2015 about 28,200 autistic Australians were neither in the labour force nor getting DSP. If this is true, more than 1 in 3 autistic Australians is not getting the welfare support that they need.

The issue A4 raised is that the wording that the Government uses is unclear in relation to autism/ASD; not whether people with ASD may be eligible for the DSP.

Bob Buckley

Convenor, Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia (A4)


A4 is the national grassroots organisation advocating for autistic people, their families, carers and associates. A4 is internet based so that Australians anywhere can participate.

“The first step in solving any problem is recognising there is one.” Jeff Daniels as Will McEvoy in The Newsroom.


On 21/4/17 9:33 am, Ministerial Coordination wrote:

Dear Mr Buckley


Please find attached a reply to your email of 29 March 2017 to the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services.





Government and Executive Services Branch

Department of Social Services




Attachment Size
20170420MC17-006035.pdf (548.47 KB) 548.47 KB