Older Aussies to keep doing it tough

Unemployed older Australians who have not yet reached Age Pension age will continue to tough it out indefinitely, should Senator Anne Ruston be taken at her word.

The Minister for Families and Social Services opposes ‘near-universal’ calls to raise paltry Newstart payments, saying increasing the dole will do nothing to fix the country’s problems.

Newstart base rates have hardly been lifted in more than 25 years. Currently, a Newstart recipient lives on just over $40 a day – $604 a fortnight. Single age pensioners can receive up to $933 a fortnight – around $66 a day – which must seem like a Holy Grail for the many over-55s who are out of work.

Suffice to say, many older Australians out of work are living in relative poverty while they wait for more generous Age Pension payments.

This does not seem a primary concern for the minister, who believes that creating jobs and mitigating social issues such as substance abuse and isolation are more important than providing older people with a dignified existence.

“Just constantly spending more money and not getting any better result is not the right thing for us to be doing,” Senator Ruston said yesterday.

“We need to make sure that we investigate every possible way that we can start getting a better result for getting people back into work.

“I think the issue around people who currently find themselves unemployed is much more complex than just the safety net that is provided by the Australian Government’s taxpayer-funded welfare system.

“There’s a lot more that we as a government need to do.”

While her aims may be admirable to a certain extent, it seems the plight of older Australians are largely being ignored. More people – especially renters – are having to work later in life just to put food on the table. Even then, for many, fortnightly income is so low that they’re forced to choose between food and heating or cooling their homes.

An increase to Newstart would certainly help.

Instead, Ms Ruston would appear to be more focused on fixing drug and alcohol addiction than addressing the needs of older people who simply cannot find the employment opportunities the senator says she is trying to provide.

“If somebody has an alcohol addiction, giving them extra money on Newstart is more likely to result in that money being spent in a hotel,” said Senator Ruston.

“Giving more money to somebody who finds themselves in a position of isolation is not going to prevent their isolation.

“We need to come up with more inventive and innovative ways to deal with the barriers people find themselves (facing) in going into the workplace.”

What do you think of the senator’s comments? Should older people on Newstart be considered differently from younger people? Do you think older welfare recipients are being ignored?

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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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