IMPACT OF FEDERAL BUDGET ON OLDER AUSTRALIANS
“Tonight’s Federal Budget contains two major measures that benefit older Australians, a number of smaller measures that will be welcomed by particular groups of seniors, and some unfortunate penny pinching” said Ian Yates, Chief Executive of COTA Australia, the peak consumer body for older Australians.
Aged Care Reform
The Living Longer Living Better aged care reform package announced on 20 April is fully funded in this budget and has already been welcomed by almost all players in aged care.
“The reform package is a big step in the right direction with major increases and improvement in -home care, dementia support, more flexible support services, more equitable and transparent user fees, and increased amounts of care, plus providing a kick start to increased wages for an underpaid workforce”.
“It falls short in maintaining the rationing of care, not giving people the right to manage their own support services, failing to fully implement the proposed Gateway to the age care system, and not providing the scheme recommended by the Productivity Commission to allow people to bill up their care against their home equity”.
Support to the mature unemployed
On top of a number of measures announced on 18 April to strengthen mature age workforce participation the Budget contains a new measure – dubbed the ‘Silver Service’ – designed to provide intensive support to get unemployed mature age people back into the workforce.
“COTA warmly welcomes this initiative to provide mature age job seekers with focused and specialized job preparation, IT training and other supports – as recommended in COTA’s Budget Submission” Mr Yates said.
“Although worth only $26 million over four years the initiative will assist some 6,700 people who have been left on the unemployment scrap heap” Mr Yates added. “If it works as we expect we will be putting the pressure on for funding to be significantly lifted next year to at least $100 million over the four years.”
Superannuation a mixed bag
“COTA is pleased that the commitment to lift superannuation from 9% to 12 % by 2019 has been kept, although we wanted it rise faster”. “We also welcome the introduction of the low income superannuation contribution of $500 for people with incomes under $37,000″ However we are disappointed there are no other major initiatives to make superannuation concessions more equitable apart from the already announced reduction in concessions for people earning over $300,000”.
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“We are also upset that the higher cap of $50,000 for people over 50 with less than $500,000 in super will cut out at 30 June this year (reverting to $25,000) and its resumption has been deferred to 1 July 2014. This will upset the retirement income plans of thousands of people nearing retirement” said Mr Yates. “It is unfair and the government should make it up to them when the higher cap resumes”.
Penny pinching from pensioners
“We are appalled at the government’s stingy decision to reduce the period pensioners can be overseas before losing most of their pensioner supplement from 13 weeks to 6 weeks” said Mr Yates.
“A family crisis overseas may well last longer than 6 weeks, and even a once in a lifetime trip to visit grandchildren can easily take more than six weeks” he said.
“The suggestion that the bills the Supplement was originally designed to help cover like essential services don’t have to be met while you are away is wrong – energy and water standing charges are a high proportion of most pensioners’ bills.
COTA warmly welcomes the “blitz” on public dental waiting lists which will help many pensioners and other retirees who cannot afford regular dental care.
COTA also warmly welcomes the improved bowel cancer screening program that will in due course save many thousands of mainly older Australians lives.
While welcoming the utilities allowance for people on Newstart as a recognition of the inadequacy of the allowance, COTA is disappointed that there is still no increase to the level of Newstart.
COTA is very disappointed that there is no extra commitment to dementia research which would also be a major preventive and cost saving measure over time as it leads to reduced costs of dementia.
COTA is also disappointed that there is no further action on affordable and appropriate housing for seniors which the government’s own Panel on the Economic Contribution of Senior Australians said was a major crisis.
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. ________________________________________________________________________________________
For further information contact Ian Yates, Chief Executive on 0418 835 439