The federal government must make provision for pensioners experiencing hardship and older jobless Australians in next Tuesday’s Federal Budget, says advocacy group the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association (CPSA).
While social services minister Anne Ruston has indicated there will be a cash boost for age pensioners in the budget after the September indexation adjustment was abandoned, the CPSA says the federal government must help the pensioners who are doing it hardest and not all age pensioners.
It wants the government to provide an additional permanent pension hardship supplement for the poorest pensioners, singles without assets and without private income, arguing that the living standard of single pensioners with no other source of income hovers just above the poverty line.
CPSA policy manager Paul Versteege says that rather than provide another $750 COVID payment, which would go to all pensioners, the government should target those who are most in need. “The majority of single full rate pensioners are widows and widowers, who have faced a drop in their pension of 40 per cent after the death of their partner,” he said.
The CPSA is also urging the government to continue to assist people over 55 who can’t find a job. A fortnightly COVID-19 supplement to the JobSeeker payment is set to be reduced from $550 to $250 after 31 December.
JobSeeker without the COVID-19 supplement is $565.70 per fortnight, almost 40 per cent less than the pension, the CPSA said in a statement. “Single pensioners know how hard it is to survive on $933.40 a fortnight.”
It says the government must increase the rate of JobSeeker permanently for everyone who is unemployed, including people over 55 who are effectively retired but haven’t reached pension age yet.
“The number of unemployed people over 55 has shot up,” it says, “as unemployment in every age cohort has shot up.
“Before COVID-19, there were 196,000 people over 55 on unemployment benefits. The chance of them finding employment was low then, but now there are 318,000 people over 55 on unemployment benefits, an increase of more than 60 per cent, finding a job has become even harder.”
The CPSA also advocates that the government should put in place a scheme aimed at getting people over 55 back into paid work.
“People over 55 have plenty to offer and will mostly live another 25 to 30 years,” it says. “They should not be relegated to permanent unemployment and mutual obligation ‘volunteer’ work. They need jobs!”
With the aged care royal commission due to hand down its report next February, the CPSA is seeking definitive action on the aged care system – now. “This has been shown up as deficient and failing many of the people who rely on it,” it said in a statement. “More home care packages and more money for more and better qualified nursing home staffing is what is required.
“No need to wait until February next year, when the commission delivers its final report: enough has come out to warrant immediate action.”
Anglicare has also called on the government to provide more support for age pensioners, particularly those who rent, after it released research that found only a small portion of the 77,000 rental listings across the country were affordable for those on a pension.
“Older people and people with disability are at greater risk during this pandemic,” said executive director of Anglicare Australia, Kasy Chambers. “But instead of getting more support, they’ve been left behind.
“Our Rental Affordability Update shows that an age pensioner can afford 0.8 per cent of rental listings across Australia. That’s even fewer than our last snapshot in March. Disability Support Pensioners face an even tougher situation. They can afford just 0.3 per cent.”
Ms Chambers wants the government to address a shortfall of 400,000 social homes, warning that if it fails to do so, Australian pensioners will be “left to the mercy of the market”.
Are you supportive of the CPSA call for a permanent ‘hardship’ supplement? Or should the base rate of the Age Pension be lifted?
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