This week, the issue of older Australians on Newstart continued to make headlines and National Seniors Australia was asked to respond to evidence in the Aged Care Royal Commission about the sudden closure of the Earle Haven retirement village on the Gold Coast.
National Seniors Australia was repeatedly in the media over the past week after releasing a response to the Prime Minister’s declaration that he wouldn’t consider a rise in the Newstart allowance.
That’s despite Australians between the ages of 55 and 64 being the largest age group receiving Newstart.
The Prime Minister’s mantra is that those on Newstart should, “have a go to get a go.”
However, on ABC’s Q & A program this week, 65-year-old Ricci Bartels took issue with the PM’s line and became a human face of older Australians forced to live on Newstart.
Like so many, she can’t “get a go” in the workforce.
Mr Bartels described the experience of spending the past three years trying to survive on Newstart.
“The loss of dignity, the loss of friends because you can't go out - you can't socialise, not eating proper food, even though I suffer various ailments. Looking for a job, applying for a job, not getting the job ... for me it was the worst time of my life.”
For months now, we’ve called on the Federal Government to raise Newstart to help older Australians such as Ms Bartels and for it to be included in the upcoming review of retirement income.
Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said National Seniors was deeply disappointed by the Prime Minister’s refusal to raise the rate of Newstart.
“We say to the Prime Minister, his no start on Newstart is not smart."
“We won’t rule out campaigning on this issue, as well as pension poverty and deeming rates, all the way to next election.
“Let’s not forget, seniors played a decisive role in the outcome of the last election and one in two Australian voters is now over 50,” Mr Henschke said.
He reminded the government that the inability of older workers to gain employment is mainly due to age discrimination and being forced onto Newstart for years.
This has a devastating impact on their retirement savings, as well as their physical and mental health, as described by Ms Bartels here.
As we mentioned in our media release this week, National Seniors Australia strongly supports the Australian Banking Association’s call for tougher measures to protect seniors against financial abuse.
Our CEO, Professor John McCallum told 10 News First the government needs to do more to help protect Australians from elder financial abuse.
This week saw the Aged Care Royal Commission head to Brisbane where evidence was heard about the abrupt closure of the Earle Haven retirement village on the Gold Coast.
The Commission was told the owner of the village had raised multiple “red flags” over the past ten years of operation and had been hit with numerous sanctions.
A financial dispute between an aged care contractor and the owner of Earle Haven saw it close its doors on the afternoon of 11 July, forcing staff to scramble for alternative accommodation for its 68 residents, many of whom suffer from dementia.
The situation became so desperate that staff were forced to ring triple zero asking for ambulances to transport the residents.
In response to the evidence, National Seniors Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said the commission was doing much needed “forensic investigation” into the aged care sector.
“It is a really important Royal Commission and it’s an opportunity to set things right,” he told Sky News.
Mr Henschke says there has been a lot more scrutiny placed on aged care homes recently and this is welcome.
“We’ve been calling for a long time for unannounced visits (inspections),” he said.
“We’re very pleased that this is happening.”
The interim report from the commission is expected in October with the full report and recommendations due next April.
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