Former Mission Australia boss and welfare system reviewer Patrick McClure says sufferers of extreme depression would be better off at work than on welfare.

Disability support pensioners with depression and anxiety would be better off working, says a former charity boss who is reviewing Australia’s welfare system.

Patrick McClure, who previously ran Mission Australia, was appointed by the federal government to look at all welfare rules, with the aim of reducing the number of people on the dole and other welfare.

In his first major public appearance since his appointment in January, Mr McClure pointed out that 31 per cent of disability support pensioners had psychological or psychiatric problems such extreme depression or anxiety.

“There’s a need to keep them linked to the workplace,” he told the Australian Council of Social Service conference in Brisbane.

“It’s better for their health and wellbeing, and of course it’s better for their own financial security.”

Addressing the same conference, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten slammed the federal government for criticising disability support pensioners with psychological issues.

“There is not a single disability pensioner I have ever met – and I have met many more than (Treasurer) Joe Hockey – who would not gladly give back every dollar of pension they’ve ever had if they could get rid of the impairment which they live with,” he said to applause.

Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews said Australia had dozens of payments, supplements and allowances.

“If you draw a diagram of the welfare system, it looks like a bird’s nest and it’s difficult to understand,” he said.

Mr McClure hinted that his review would recommend a simpler welfare system.

“What we would be proposing in the interim report … is a simpler architecture with fewer payments and supplements,” he said.

“This would be introduced over the medium to long term.”