Queensland budget holds little joy for seniors

Queensland’s budget contained little joy for older people, with continued funding of elder abuse prevention measures on the plus side offsetting the demise of a dedicated job skilling program, National Seniors Australia said today.

The 2018/19 state budget contained $900,000 for the previously announced roll-out of seniors’ legal and support services to Gladstone, Rockhampton, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Mackay.

The government announced it would also continue to fund existing services in Toowoomba, Brisbane, Hervey Bay, Cairns and Townsville and the seniors’ enquiry line, which provides advice on consumer protection issues and scams, would receive an extra $100,000 a year for the next two years.

“Elder abuse is a scourge on our society and any measures to help stamp it out are welcome,” chair of National Seniors Queensland Policy Advisory Group Vera Somerwil said.

“Older people need to know help and advice is available for them when they need it.”

But Ms Somerwil said the end of the Back to Work Mature Aged Worker Boost for jobseekers aged 55 and over would mean many older job seekers could drop out of the workforce altogether.

Under the six-month $5 million program, employers who hired unemployed mature-aged jobseekers were eligible for payments of up to $20,000. The program will be cut from 30 June 2018.

“This is hardly going help older people find employment in a job market where age discrimination is so pervasive when it comes to hiring and keeping mature-age workers,” Mr Somerwil said.

“Many older people still have much to offer and want to keep working.”

The budget did contain some encouragement for entrepreneurial older people, with $1 million for a trial program designed to provide targeted skills, specialist business advice and mentoring support for those wanting to set up their own businesses.

Cost of living relief was confined to a continuation of the additional $50 electricity rebate introduced last year. Ms Somerwil said the electricity bill relief would come as cold comfort for seniors tossing up whether to put the heater on or food on the table this winter.

“Older people on pensions and low fixed incomes have been struggling with living costs for years and this budget gives them little relief,” Ms Somerwil said.

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