Older Australians will welcome confirmation that the Federal government has dropped unfair changes to pension indexation and given them more choice and control in how they receive aged care at home. Other budget measures will be received with less enthusiasm including changes to employment incentives and cuts to dementia care.
COTA Australian Chief Executive Ian Yates said he was disappointed with the Government’s response to mature age employment.
“The Federal government has consistently extolled the need to keep people working as long as possible given the pressures of Australia’s ageing population.
“Yet all we see in the Budget is tinkering with the existing Restart program which provides incentives to businesses who employ a long term unemployed person over 50. This includes reducing the time an employer needs to keep an older person on before receiving a full incentive payment.
“We are concerned that this could lead to some employers churning older employees on short contracts so employers benefit from the incentive but the workers become unemployed again.
“We understand that the government is introducing this change in order to encourage stronger employer participation in the program and we will watch closely to see if this is the outcome but at present we are not convinced.
“It is disappointing that the incentives only apply to older people who have been unemployed and on income support for six months. Earlier eligibility would make the older person more attractive to an employer and ensure they maintain their confidence.
“We are also disappointed there other complementary measures were not put in place to counteract the prevalence of age discrimination in the workplace.”
Mr Yates said he would also be looking for more detail on how the consolidated new wage subsidies program – which will now include older workers, long term unemployed, youth and the Tasmanian jobs program – impacts on older people or whether they get ignored.
“We’ll be looking for what mechanisms the government will put in place to ensure older workers get their fair share of the subsidy pool,” Mr Yates said.
Aged care (see separate COTA media release)
Mr Yates said that bold initiatives in aged care reform are another big step forward toward a consumer focused system; highlighting in particular the move to give older people direct access to their funding for home care. This is an excellent move that will give older people more choice and control as they age and will drive improved quality in age care provision.
Mr Yates said he welcomed new listings on the MBS for new breast cancer treatments and telehealth consultations with ophthalmologists and other additions to the PBS for melanoma, multiple sclerosis, shingles and other important treatments.
“Given out of pocket health expenses are one of the biggest concerns for older Australians, we would have liked to see more measures that help older people reduce their health expenditure, including through targeted preventive health programs.
“We look forward to working constructively with the government on its health reform agenda over the coming twelve months to ensure older Australians needs are properly considered as part of this process.”
Mr Yates said older people made up a significant proportion of the caring workforce and would welcome measures which gave them better access to information on support services.
“There is no doubt that looking for support services is extremely complicated and time consuming for carers. Measures announced in the Budget to introduce a ‘gateway’ of information over the phone and online will be help alleviate some of the confusion and complexity.
“The establishment of the carers advisory panel is also a good initiative.”
Mr Yates said confirmation that the changes to pension indexation outlined in the 2014 budget have been dropped will be a welcome relief to all Australian pensioners.
“Although this was announced prior to the budget, we are pleased to see it in black and white in the budget papers.
“The pension measures which look at changes to income thresholds and eligibility are a better place to start than with indexation but we remain convinced that a holistic review of the whole retirement space is the only way to get a fair, certain and sustainable retirement system for all for the next twenty years and beyond.
“Pensions are only one component of a complex retirement incomes system in which the various parts are intermeshed; and at present there are major inequities, inefficiencies and waste in the system.”We urgently need an independent, comprehensive Retirement Incomes Review, as we and many others have called for”
Media contact: Ian Yates 0418 835 439, Olivia Greentree 0439 411 774.
COTA Australia is the peak policy development, advocacy and representation organisation for older Australians, representing COTAs in every State and Territory and through them over 500,000 older Australians.