COTA welcomes the opportunity to provide comment to the Senate Inquiry into the extent of income inequality in Australia. Maintaining an income that facilitates a dignified life is a key concern for COTA’s membership. Both income and expenses are important in sustaining this dignity-as is access to opportunity.
There is a great deal of diversity among older people including variations in their capacity to respond to changes in their expenses as well as their income. Without this knowledge, policy changes and budget adjustments can have a disproportionately negative impact on the most vulnerable.
This submission will also investigate links between income inequality and the resultant disadvantage among older people. COTA observes that financial vulnerability compounds in older years but its root causes can often be traced back to multiple points across the life course and systemic inequalities that have been left unchecked. It is for this reason that COTA has real concerns about budget measures that will see young people cut off from income support for six months.
Every day COTA hears from its members about hardship in people’s later years that may have been avoided if the right kind of support was available to them when they needed it. It is COTA’s view that social payments must be provided in ways that help people exit disadvantage, increase access to opportunity and maintain a dignified quality of life. Together with ACOSS, COTA and other organisations recently endorsed a set of principles to guide the provision of social payments. These principles are in Attachment 1 to this submission.