Initiatives for aged fall short

Federal Budget initiatives aimed at assisting older Australians – home-care packages, a re-drawing of the home-care scheme and an increase in the work bonus – are spread over four years and do not meet even current needs, according to the Benevolent Society.

And low-income renters and the homeless have been ignored, says Mission Australia.

The Government announced an additional 14,000 high-level home-care packages costing $1.6 billion to help older Australians stay in their homes longer; 13,500 new residential aged-care places and 775 short-term ‘restorative’ places, and $60 million for capital investment.

Benevolent Society Strategic Engagement, Research and Advocacy Executive Director Dr Kirsty Nowlan said 60,000 people currently had no package at all and 44,000 people were on lower level packages than they required.

“No one should have to wait for this critical assistance. Once people are assessed as being eligible and in need, they should have a package ready to go,” said Dr Nowlan.

“This is not, as has been heralded, a ‘budget for baby boomers’ nor does it have older Australians as its centrepiece with a ‘sweeping blueprint for aged care’.

“The Government has tried to frame this as a budget for older Australians, but around 250,000 households relying on the Age Pension are living in private rental accommodation.

“Trying to pay rent and meet the cost of living on the Age Pension is the greatest creator of poverty among older Australians. Rent Assistance has become grossly inadequate. When you add the rising costs of health care, dentistry and technology, many older people have to take drastic measures to try to make ends meet. Government policy has simply failed to provide a decent standard of living for many older Australians.”

Dr Nowlan criticised the decision to continue on with the policy to increase the pension age to 70, arguing that working until 70 was impossible for many and would force older Australians onto an inadequate Newstart allowance.

She said she welcomed other initiatives: $145 million to improve aged care in regional and remote areas, $82 million to improve access to mental health services in residential aged care and increasing the cap on older Australians earning a wage on top of their pension from $250 to $300 per fortnight.

“But compare this to other countries,” she said. “In Canada, for example, people on the equivalent of the Age Pension (Old Age Security) can earn up to $1400 (Canadian) per week before the income test kicks in. And in New Zealand, there is no income test for the Age Pension.

“This means that someone on the Age Pension is encouraged to keep working, while they can and while they want to, so they have the ability to increase their savings further before full retirement.”

Mission Australia CEO James Toomey said the Government had missed another opportunity to address rising homelessness and provide a national plan to meet the critical shortage of affordable housing for those on the lowest incomes.

YourLifeChoices tribes Cash-Strapped Singles and Couples (those on a full Age Pension who rent) are doing it tough according to our surveys and feedback and have been for some time. According to the March edition of the Retirement Affordability Index™ they are spending 29 per cent and 36 per cent respectively on housing.

According to Anglicare Australia’s latest Rental Affordability Snapshot, only one per cent of rentals are affordable for a single person receiving the Age Pension.

It also said that the number of homeless persons aged 55 and over had increased by 28 per cent, from 14,581 in 2011 to 18,625 in 2016.

Mission Australia’s Mr Toomey said the absence of a plan to tackle rental costs would lead to “greater social and economic dislocation”.

“We wanted to see more from the Budget that would energise investment into affordable rental housing. We saw plenty of support for infrastructure projects in the Budget, so why isn’t housing seen as critical national infrastructure?

“The current housing system is broken.”

He said older people in rental stress were at high risk of homelessness.

“More social and affordable housing would allow these older people to have choices too and also assist the increasing number of older people who are without a home,” he said.

Are you in rental stress? Were you disappointed high rental costs were not addressed in the Budget? Do you see a solution?

Related articles:
Aged care, home care boost
Pension Loans Scheme extended
Are we being ‘fattened for the kill’?

Written by Janelle Ward

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