The global financial crisis is likely to lead to an increase in the number of people accessing the disability support pension, the federal government says.
Parliamentary secretary for disabilities Bill Shorten says growth in the number of people accessing the disability support pension has been greater than in any other pension category in the 10 years to 2007.
Between 1996 and 2007, the number of disability support pensioners increased from 499,000 to about 725,000, he said.
"In these difficult economic circumstances, yes, I think it will go up again," he said following an address at the National Press Club on Wednesday.
The government wants to develop a national plan to get more people with disabilities into the workforce and off the pension.
But Mr Shorten said there was concern that workers with disabilities could be the first to lose their jobs during the financial crisis.
"Maybe's there a temptation amongst some employees to say, 'well people with disabilities should be the first to be, metaphorically, thrown overboard'."
"That's not appropriate," he said.
Mr Shorten said jobs for people with disabilities in areas like gardening and manufacturing were at risk, as well as services provided by the not-for-profit sector, which relies heavily on grants from the business sector.
Sean Fitzgerald, a 38-year-old quadriplegic, has helped businesses access the necessary technology to employ disabled workers for years.
He wants businesses to be required to take on a percentage of disabled workers, and adequate government funding to make this possible.
"People with a disability provide more than just productivity and a bum in a seat in a business, they provide a level of diversity and understanding," he told AAP.
"It is very difficult for an employee to spend their life bitching about the boss when they're sitting next door to someone who has obviously got so much more to deal with in life."
The federal government took delivery two weeks ago of a review of pensions by the head of the Families Department, Jeff Harmer.
Details of the review are yet to be released, but Families Minister Jenny Macklin earlier this week guaranteed disability support pensioners, as well as some other pensioners, would receive a boost in their fortnightly payments in the May budget.
Disability support pensioners receive up to $569.80 a fortnight. It's expected that will be lifted by up to $30 a week.
Source - Sydney Morning Herald
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