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This Woman With Cerebral Palsy Is "Housebound" After The Government Denied Her A Pension

Prue McCarthy has been without the Disability Service Pension for seven months.

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Prue McCarthy was born with cerebral palsy and taught herself to walk when she was seven. Now, a decade after going off the Disability Service Pension (DSP) to care for her grandmother, she has been told she does not qualify to get back on it.

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"I went off the DSP in 2005 when I moved in with my grandmother and went on the carer's pension as I was caring for Nan," she told BuzzFeed News. "I tried to get back on it when Nan died in August 2015."

It's now been seven months since Prue was told by her local Centrelink that she no longer qualified for the DSP.

Centrelink told Prue her request for the DSP was rejected because she had been working 15 hours a week at a non-government organisation, caring for her grandmother.

This puts her at the bare minimum of the amount of work outlined by Centrelink as over the threshold of eligibility.

On the Department of Human Services site, they outline the eligibility basics like:

* Being aged between 16-years-old and "Age of Pension" age.

* Having been assessed as having a physical, intellectual, or psychiatric impairment.

* Having been unable to work for 15 hours or more per week at or above the relevant minimum wage within the next two years because of the impairment.

Currently, Prue is living off the $719 a fortnight she receives by working 12 hours a week at her paid job. She is also given newstart allowance of $100 a fortnight.

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This combined weekly income puts Prue on the poverty line outlined by the Australian Council of Social Service.

Current available data does not allow more recent readings, but in 2009-10 the Australian Council of Social Services found 27.4% of people living with a disability were "living in poverty".

"My life has changed dramatically as I can no longer go out with friends, meaning I just stay home on my own," said Prue.

"My self-esteem has gone down as I have been forced to look at what I can't do in order to be eligible for the DSP, which resulted in a rejection anyway. "


Prue fears that if she doesn't receive the DSP soon she may have to sell her home and move in with her parents.

Over 1,500 people have liked a Facebook page made by one of Prue's friends, Andrew Ryan, supporting her right to receive the disability pension.

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"Prue currently works in disability services and presents a program in schools educating students on how people with disabilities are 'able'," Andrew told BuzzFeed News.

"Prue is dipping into her savings and has very real fears about being able to pay her bills and whether she will be able to remain independent in the future."

"The immediate impacts have been things like Prue becoming reasonably house-bound because she is worried about spending money on things us "able bodied" people take for granted."

The Department of Social Services told BuzzFeed News it couldn't look at Prue's specific case without her permission, but refuted that she lost her DSP because of her work hours.

"To be eligible for the DSP, people need to be assessed as unable to work 15 hours or more each week when they apply," said a spokesperson.

"People who are already receiving the DSP can work up to 30 hours per week (subject to income testing). This rule was designed to encourage people on DSP to develop their work capacity, to try working, and to experiment with increasing their hours if they find they can cope. The rule has been in place since 2012."

The Department of Human Services has offered to follow up with Prue to further discuss her circumstances.