MEDIA RELEASE: Inquiry condemns older Australians to live in poverty

Older Australians struggling to make ends meet on the Newstart Allowance will be deeply disappointed by the recommendations handed down by the Senate Inquiry into its adequacy, COTA Australia said today.

Ian Yates Chief Executive COTA Australia said the report missed an important opportunity to raise the level of payment for unemployed Australians despite highlighting its inadequacy throughout the report.

“The adequacy or otherwise of the Newstart Allowance is a big issue for older Australians as more than a quarter of Newstart recipients are aged over 50,” Mr Yates said.

“This is compounded by the fact that this age group are likely to stay on income support for long periods due to difficulties finding work.

“That Newstart payments simply do not meet the cost of living was the whole purpose of this Inquiry, and today’s report has failed to resolve this core issue.

“$35 a day not enough for an Australian of any age to live on.

“The discrepancy in payment rates compared to that of the aged pension makes this issue of low income support for unemployed Australians of particular concern for older people.

“Australians aged over 65 receive $133 more each week on the aged pension compared to those 64 and under receiving Newstart.

“We were only seeking a compromise increase of at least $50 a week in the Newstart payment, still $83 a week less than what is received by those on the aged pension. That the inquiry failed to recommend this is most disappointing.

“Too many older people are living in poverty and the Inquiry has failed to help these people by ignoring the obvious solution – increase Newstart payments in line with the aged pension, and in line with indexation.

Mr Yates said that while issues of discrimination in the workplace against employing older people still needed addressing, the recommendation to ensure greater training and support programs for these workers sounded like a positive step towards helping older Australians back into the workforce.

“We await the detail of this initiative and hope to see it implemented quickly and efficiently.”

Media contact: Ian Yates 0418 835 439, Anastasia Stomo 043 224 3389