- Renters will receive additional support through a 15% boost to the maximum rate of rent assistance, a change advocated for by National Seniors.
Older (and younger) people on government income support payments will benefit from a $40 per fortnight increase to the base rate, with 55-59 year-olds on JobSeeker getting a further lift of $52.10 to match the higher rate for people over 60.
Health receives a boost with incentives for GPs to bulk bill and lower medication costs.
Aged care continues to be a focus with funding for a 15% increase in wages for aged care staff and an additional 9,500 home care places.
One of the centerpieces of the 2023 Budget is the allocation of $14.6 billion over four years for measures to address cost-of-living pressures for the most disadvantaged. Many of these measures will impact positively on older people doing it tough.
While it did not include more frequent indexation of the pension, as National Seniors Australia had recommended, targeted support and payment increases will go some way to ease rapidly rising living costs.
In a massive win for National Seniors and other advocacy organisations, the government has finally responded to ongoing calls to increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance.
An increase to rent assistance has been one of the centerpieces of our
Recipients will get a 15% increase to the maximum rate of rent assistance from September 2023.
The government has responded to public pressure to increase a range of government payments for the most disadvantaged.
People receiving JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, and Austudy will get a $40 per fortnight increase in their payment from September 2023.
The Budget also includes a targeted increase in the JobSeeker payment for people aged 55-59. Payments for these people will rise by an additional $52.10, on top of the $40 increase in the base rate for income support payments. This brings the payment rates for people aged 55-59 to the higher rate already available for people aged 60 and over but only after they have been unemployed for nine months or more.
Energy bill relief
The Budget delivers subsidies of up to $500 to meet increased energy costs. The rebate will be provided as a one-off payment delivered directly through household electricity bills.
The amount of relief received will depend on your personal circumstances and where you live as it is being delivered in conjunction with state and territory governments. This story explains how it will affect where you live.
Households wanting to reduce energy costs will also have access to 110,000 low-interest loans to upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes and reduce energy bills. The loans will be available for battery-ready solar photovoltaic (PV), double glazing, modern appliances and other improvements.
As yet, there is no detail on eligibility for the scheme.
In a welcome move, the Budget provides $3.5 billion over five years to strengthen Medicare and address the affordability of basic medical care.
Significant funding has been provided for stronger incentives to encourage GPs to bulk bill for many common consultations. The measure applies to pensioners, Commonwealth concession card holders and children under 16.
National Seniors members and supporters have told us many older people cannot afford gap co-payments to see a GP and are unable to find GP practices that bulk bill, so we welcome this initiative.
While doctors’ organisations have enthusiastically welcomed this measure, it remains to be seen whether this will turn the tide on declining bulk billing rates.
More than 300 common Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicines will be cheaper as people will be able to buy two months’ worth of medicine for the price of a single (one month) prescription.
As large users of medications, older people are likely to benefit from this. However, National Seniors will keep an eye on how this measure rolls out to ensure that it does not create unintended problems in medicine availability.
This measure could save concession card holders up to $43.80 per year per eligible medicine.
For several years, National Seniors has been actively calling for better access to dental and oral health care for older people through the Fix Pension Poverty campaign. Dental care is a fundamental component of essential health care that is not included in Medicare and many older Australians simply cannot afford it.
While the Budget hasn’t revisited a past pledge to create a seniors’ dental scheme (something we support), it does contain some resources and a commitment to work on longer-term adult public dental reform and an extension of existing funding for public dental services for adults until 30 June 2025.
Other health initiatives
Other inclusions in the Health Budget relevant for older people:
A further $358.5 million for Medicare Urgent Care Clinics, including for eight new clinics providing bulk billing and longer opening hours.
$98.2 million in Medicare rebates to enable doctors to spend more time with patients with chronic or complex needs who require consultations of longer than 60 minutes.
$47.8 million for better wound care – an important health intervention for those with diabetes and chronic wounds.
$445.1 million to expand general practice to employ a range of health professionals to provide team-based primary care. Smaller practices will also be able to complement their teams with the services of allied health professionals who have been commissioned by Primary Health Networks ($79.4 million).
In good news for aged care, the government has funded a 15% pay increase for workers and there are 9,500 extra home care packages. However, National Seniors remains concerned that the government is not doing enough to capitalise on the skills of older people to meet workforce shortages in this and other critical areas of the economy.
The 15% pay increase for most of the low-paid aged care workforce may be the most broadly supported and welcomed measure in this year’s Budget, as it rewards workers who have been under-valued. It is hoped that this pay increase will help retain and attract desperately needed workers.
National Seniors, along with many other interested parties, will keep a close eye on the success of this measure to ensure the money going to aged care providers is passed on to workers’ pay packets.
We will also continue to advocate for policy changes that support older people wishing to work in the care sector, such as dedicated training schemes and pension rule changes.
The government has used the Budget to announce a further 9,500 Home Care Packages to meet demand. These additional packages are in response to the delay in implementing a new Support at Home program, which has been postponed for another year, until 1 July 2025, to give more time to get this once-in-a-few-decades change right.
This will mean a temporary reprieve for the existing Commonwealth Home Support Programme, which will be eventually integrated into the new program.
National Seniors will hold Government to account on this delay and will be active in the consultation and co-design work over the coming two years to land the best possible, highest quality, most affordable home-based care options for older people.
Aged Care Taskforce
A new Aged Care Taskforce will review aged care funding arrangements and develop options for long-term funding of a better quality and safer aged care system, and final design of the forthcoming Support at Home Program.
The outcomes of this taskforce will be hugely important in setting the sustainability of the care system for older people. National Seniors will be engaged with the work of the Taskforce every step of the way to advocate for fair and affordable access to aged care for all older people.
New Aged Care Act
$72.3 million has been allocated in the Budget for the development of a new regulatory model for aged care providers, which will be reflected in a new Aged Care Act. National Seniors is already engaged with this process on your behalf and will keep you updated on developments as they emerge.
Food and nutrition
$12.9 million will be invested to strengthen food and nutrition reporting, direct expert dietary advice to providers, and embed improved dining experiences for aged care residents.
The health, wellbeing and quality of life of aged care residents depends in part on good nutrition and pleasure in meals. National Seniors joins with many stakeholders in welcoming this funding.
The relatively limited focus on superannuation in the Budget is a mixed blessing for older people. Most older people are nervous about changes to superannuation rules, worrying that these might undermine their retirement income or increase the complexity of the system.
Tax changes for super balances
The Budget affirmed the prior announcement of a change in tax arrangements for individuals with a total superannuation balance (TSB) exceeding $3 million.
From 1 July 2025, the existing tax rate of 15% will be increased to bring the tax rate for balances greater than $3 million to 30%.
Budget papers indicate that about 80,000 people will be impacted in 2025-26 – approximately 0.5% of individuals with a superannuation account.
Older people still in the workforce will benefit from the requirement for employers to pay their employees’ Super Guarantee (SG) on the same day they pay salary and wages. Previously employers were only required to pay the SG quarterly.
This will mean super will be placed into accounts sooner, providing greater visibility for employees.
This measure will not start until 1 July 2026 to provide time for businesses to adjust.
Minimum pension drawdown rate
The government will not continue to halve minimum drawdown rates for account-based pensions (ABP), which will end on 30 June. According to the government, this temporary measure has ended due to the stabilisation of financial conditions. Minimum drawdown rates will revert to pre-COVID levels from 1 July 2023.
$5 million will be provided over five years to continue funding for Super Consumers Australia. This will provide Australians with information on super to help them understand the superannuation system.