National Seniors Australia is calling on the Queensland government to introduce a suite of initiatives in the state budget to boost the health and wellbeing of seniors.
Queensland Policy Advisory Group spokeswoman Vera Somerwil said today the budget submission sought:
- improved access to oral health services
- adoption of a default price for electricity
- the indexation of all utilities and rates concessions for eligible seniors
- a one-off concession on stamp duty to help older Queenslanders downsize their homes
- better protections from elder abuse.
Ms Somerwil said dentistry was an essential part of health care, but it was not treated that way. The cost of basic care had been largely privatised and many older people were forced to rely on public services, which were overstretched and underfunded.
Long waiting lists for public dental services meant some people ended up with complicated, expensive and major oral health issues because of the excessive delays involved.
“Poor oral health is linked to chronic diseases, including stroke and cardiovascular disease,” Ms Somerwil said.
“Increased funding for public dental services will reduce the risk of hospitalisations for major dental work and related health conditions, saving the health budget millions of dollars.
“Investing up front can actually deliver longer term savings, and reduce the discomfort, pain, and embarrassment faced by people who can’t afford to go to a private dentist.”
Ms Somerwil said another huge cost pressure for seniors was power, and National Seniors was calling on the Queensland government to support moves to develop a default market offer with a regulated price determined by the Australian Electricity Regulator (AER).
Seniors – particularly those on the age pension or low incomes – had been hard hit by soaring energy costs that had increased at rates far above inflation over the past 10 years.
“We desperately need to see some relief in this area,” Ms Somerwil said. “In a climate like Queensland’s, older people are reliant on the use of air-conditioners and fans in summer for their survival.
“But they regularly suffer in soaring temperatures because they have to choose between being cool or being able to pay for food and other essentials.
“National Seniors has long called for a regulated price for electricity and there is support for it from the Coalition and the ALP at the federal level. Now it’s time for the state government to step up and do what’s best for consumers.”
Stamp duty concessions
Ms Somerwil said National Seniors acknowledged the state government’s ongoing support for seniors’ concessions for essential services over past years.
“But more is needed,” she said. “Unless adequate indexation is applied to concessions annually, their real value will decline over time, undermining their capacity to assist older people to meet their day-to-day living costs.
“We are asking the Queensland government to apply annual indexation to all utilities and general rates concessions to ensure they continue to keep pace with inflation and cost of living pressures.
“We are also asking the government to guarantee all current concessions are maintained.”
National Seniors was also seeking a one-off concession for stamp duty to help older Queensland downsize to more suitable and age-friendly homes.
Many seniors wanted to do this but were discouraged by the high costs of selling and moving and stamp duty associated with buying a replacement home. National Seniors research had revealed that the impact on the Age Pension of surplus funds from the sale were another key financial disincentive to downsizing.
Ms Somerwil said National Seniors was calling on the Queensland government to follow the example of the ACT, Northern Territory, Victorian and Tasmanian governments in offering seniors a stamp duty concession.
“We recommend that the government adopt a similar scheme to the one offered in the ACT, where stamp duty is waived completely on homes that sell for less than $680,500, with value of the concession declining on a sliding scale to zero when the sale price reaches $895,000.”
The Queensland state budget submission can be read in full at https://nationalseniors.com.au/QLDBudget2019.