There are currently around 4.3 million Australians, aged 16-65 living with a disability, whether that is physical or intellectual.

Of those, just over 460,000 have met the criteria and are eligible for support under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). 

NDIS funding is available to people with a disability for “reasonable and necessary supports” to live a life as “ordinary” as possible. The funding is paid through the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

What government support, then is available to the remainder of those who are living with a disability but don’t qualify for the NDIS? Alternatively,  what is the situation if you do meet the criteria for funding under the NDIS but already receive a Disability Support Pension (DSP)?

What is the DSP?

The Disability Support Pension (DSP) is designed to provide financial help, through Centrelink, to people aged 16-65 who are unable to work because of a permanent physical, intellectual or psychiatric condition.

This is a means-tested welfare payment and if you have assets over a certain value or earn too much, you may not qualify, or your payment will be reduced accordingly.

Your DSP is designed to help you cover basic, daily living expenses. How much you receive depends on your age and your circumstances.


On the other hand, the NDIS is about the disability support you need to live independently. It does not replace the DSP, but rather provides additional funding to meet the special needs of a person with a disability.  In doing so it seeks to close the gap between having a disability and not having a disability and will fund what is reasonable and necessary to achieve this.

For example, you may use your NDIS funding to buy a wheelchair, make modifications to your vehicle, or pay for extra assistance at home so you can continue living independently. However, you would be expected to use your DSP to help cover your day-to-day living expenses, such as rent, utilities and food.

The two funding and welfare models, whilst separate, are designed to work alongside each other, but can operate without one another. As everyone’s situation is unique and assessed accordingly, just because you have an NDIS plan, doesn’t mean you’ll qualify for a DSP and vice versa.

Where To Get Advice

Understanding how funding through the NDIS works, as opposed to Centrelink, can be a confusing process. Although both are designed to support people living with a disability or other medical condition, they have quite different objectives, as well as criteria when it comes to assessment.

You can talk to your GP about your particular circumstances and how to access support. There is also useful information on the Department of Human Services website about Disability Support Pensions.