Age Pension “too hard”

Older Australians have spoken, saying the application process for the Age Pension is “too hard, too complicated and too long”.

New research from National Seniors and Retirement Essentials of 530 retirees who had applied for the Age Pension found that 42.4 per cent were dissatisfied with the process.

Anyone who has applied for the Age Pension would agree. The application itself is 25 pages long, with complicated wording, jargon and a range of rules that would make your eyes water.

YourLifeChoices Retirement Income and Financial Literacy Survey 2018 has also revealed that, not only is the Age Pension complicated for the 41 per cent who claim it as their primary source of income, but 75 per cent are unsure about their entitlements that could help them live a better retirement.

Around seven in 10 also say that the superannuation system is too complicated, more than 73 per cent say they don’t understand how financial investments work, and 72 per cent say it’s difficult to find help when they need to make a financial decision.

Almost 75 per cent believe the Government is not doing enough to provide the necessary information to help age pensioners decipher the complicated Age Pension process and their retirement income options.

Then, consider the fact that 33 million Centrelink calls went unanswered last year and it’s not surprising age pensioners are finding it difficult to gets questions answered.

With almost two million people on an Age Pension and 700 new applications made very working day, National Seniors Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Professor John McCallum has called on the Government to simplify the Age Pension and superannuation process, with a focus on training, improving internal process and management.

“Our study provides clear evidence that senior Australians face unnecessary hurdles to access the Age Pension entitlements they rely on for their essential living expenses,” said Prof. McCallum.

“The complexity of the Centrelink process, combined with insufficient call centre operators, long wait times and insufficient Financial Information Service Officers is frustrating for older Australians.

“Today, Centrelink’s assistance is at the end of a long wait on the phone or in a queue at the local Centrelink office, an under-resourced albeit competent Financial Information Service, or an online service that has been poorly designed for the physical and digital capabilities and service needs of older people.”

Department of Human Services General Manager Hank Jongen responded to the report, claiming the process was “continually improving” its digital channels to make applying for and being on the Age Pension easier, and to limit the need for Australians to call for assistance.

“More and more people are choosing to do their business online, including older Australians, who can now lodge Age Pension claims electronically through myGov or the Centrelink app,” said Mr Jongen.

“The new online claim process ensures claims contain all the information needed, so they can be processed as quickly as possible.

“We understand online options are not for everyone, and we are committed to improving people’s experience when dealing with us, be it by phone, face-to-face or digitally.”

The concern is that these digital options do little for older Australians already struggling to keep pace with technology and online systems that have replaced face-to-face services.

“It is clear the system is not geared for seniors to independently and confidently apply for the Age Pension,” said Retirement Essentials Chief Executive Paul Rogan.

“Centrelink and other groups must work together to make it easier for those who are eligible to access the entitlements they rely on to fund their basic needs in retirement.”

Do you think the Age Pension is complicated? How have you found the Government’s digital services, such as myGov or the Centrelink app? Do you feel that the Government provides enough information to make the process accessible?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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