As advocates demand action on income support for older Australians in Tuesday’s federal Budget, particularly for the growing legions of 50-plus Aussies struggling to survive on unemployment benefits, there is some good news.
The New Daily reports that Australians with liver cancer, myopia and Parkinson’s disease will have new treatment options under changes to Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) listings.
From 1 November, more than 500 patients per year could benefit from PBS listing of drugs to treat advanced unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common form of liver cancer. That treatment would otherwise cost more than $170,000 per course.
The myopia treatment would have cost $5000 per year and the Parkinson’s treatment $7500 per script without the changes.
From 1 October, treatments for high cholesterol and 20 other widely used medicines became cheaper because of price disclosure policy changes.
The Council On The Ageing (COTA) Australia is calling for the following to be prioritised in the federal Budget:
- provide a third $750 economic support payment to age and disability pensioners
- increase the maximum Commonwealth Rental Assistance (CRA) by 40 per cent and benchmark future rises in the CRA to median rents
- review the structure of CRA to ensure that commonwealth funds provide maximum assistance to the most vulnerable, generally in the private rental market
- remove the Liquid Asset Waiting Period, at least for unemployed people over the age of 55. In the meantime, government should remove legislation proposing to increase the waiting period from 13 weeks to 26 weeks currently before the Senate
- increase the maximum single rate of JobSeeker and review the indexation.
“Pensioners already live very close to the poverty line and in private rental, below it,” COTA said in its official budget submission.
“While the two previous $750 payments have been very welcome, pensioners have ended up with less than people on the increased level of Jobseeker. Accordingly, we urge the government to provide an additional $750 stimulus payment as part of your economic stimulus measures.”
National Seniors Australia says COVID has wiped value off the share market and damaged the housing market, affecting the funds older Australians had saved for their retirement.
“Most can’t go back to work to recover their losses. They have suffered a hit to their incomes, which will have long-term impacts on spending, affecting business sustainability and employment.”
It calls on government to:
- help retirees unlock their wealth and invest safely in the recovery
- create a fairer and simpler retirement income system
- assist pensioners most in need
- help older people access care at home.
The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) has revealed that more and more older people are receiving unemployment benefits.
“The PBO found older people and women were increasingly relying on the dole for longer because of changes to the eligibility criteria for parenting, disability support and pension payments,” the Herald-Sun reports.
“JobSeeker appears to be functioning as a kind of pre-age pension payment for some older Australians,” the PBO said.
The office was established in 2012 to provide “independent and non-partisan analysis of the budget cycle”. It says that in the 1990s, two out of five Australians on the dole were men aged under 35; in 2019, half of JobSeeker recipients were aged over 45 and 15 per cent were aged over 60.
Of JobSeeker recipients aged over 55 in 2019, 33 per cent of women and 29 per cent of men had relied on the benefit for more than five years.
The PBO says this trend would probably continue because the qualifying age for the Age Pension is increasing to 67, and it is often more difficult for older Australians to find work.
It says more women are losing their jobs or leaving the labour force altogether because of the pandemic and this represented a “material risk” to the Budget because strong female employment participation rates have been a driver of economic growth.
The JobSeeker coronavirus supplement was cut by $300 a fortnight to $250 at the end of September.
What do you want to see in the Budget? Will older Australians be looked after?
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