Each year, National Seniors makes submissions to state and territory budget processes on your behalf, arguing for a better lot for seniors and seeking to influence government policy.
We put forward a range of recommendations for changes, which we believe will make a difference for older people. Many thanks to the ACT and Queensland Policy and Advocacy Groups (PAGs) for helping to voice seniors’ concerns.
In the ACT Budget, announced last week, and the Queensland Budget, announced this week, both continued to offer a range of seniors' concessions and subsidies, but new seniors initiatives were largely missing.
National Seniors welcomes the retention of concessions but believe that simply maintaining the status quo is not good enough.
The struggle to make ends meet is a blight on older age. Older people continue to make a significant contribution to state and territory economies as well as the broader society, so we are disappointed these budgets have not gone further.
The ACT PAG attended the budget briefing by the Chief Minister and the Minister for Aging last week. PAG Chair Bill Donovan says highlights include:
- Extension of the roll-out of aged friendly suburbs program.
- Extension of the stamp duty rebate for pensioners downsizing.
- Continued funding of the ACT Senior’s Card program.
- Promotion of inclusion programs in regions to combat social isolation.
- Recruitment of medical specialists.
- Reduction in waiting times for operations.
- Further reductions in regressive charges associated with a corresponding increase in rates.
- More affordable, compliant, suitable housing.
- More funding for mental health care.
- Capping of the rates concessions to seniors at $700 per household.
- Anomalies in rates are being eliminated to establish different rating factors for unit titled and non-unit titled properties. Rates will still rise by about 7%.
The following areas were also impacted.
Funding for expanding Canberra Hospital frontline services and more palliative care services.
Motor vehicle registration discounts and drivers licence concessions for pension card holders will continue, so too concession and free fares for seniors and those 70. The flexible community bus service will continue to be funded but not extended although the new bus network under design would service most aged care facilities and retirement villages in Canberra.
Funding continues for the Mature Workers Grants Program, support for healthy ageing, the Age-Friendly City Plan and new Men’s Sheds in Hughes and Weston Creek.
The utilities concession for pensioners will increase by $46 to $700 per year. The Life Support Rebate, which provides help with utility costs (electricity to operate life supporting equipment), is increased by 5% bringing the payment to $128 a year. The ACT seniors Card Program and Seniors events received additional funding.
Queensland PAG Chair, Vera Sommerwil, attended the budget briefing delivered by the Queensland Premier and Treasurer.
While there were no new seniors’ initiatives, the budget highlighted a number of ongoing government commitments to seniors in Queensland.
$3.5 million will go to Seniors Legal and Support Services in Brisbane and regional centres, and ongoing funding for the Elder Abuse Helpline.
These Services already have been allocated $400,000 for specialist financial protection services for seniors, including free independent information and advice on financial issues such as aged care contracts and family agreements.
Electricity, rates, water and gas bills concessions have been continued. This is in addition to the cost of living and transport benefits and discounts that come with the range of cards available under the Queensland Seniors Card scheme.
As an aside, seniors were at the centre of a fight between Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner and Treasurer Jackie Trad. The Lord Mayor called on the Government to match council’s offer of free travel to seniors on Brisbane’s buses, ferries and CityCats during off-peak periods.
The Treasurer hit back calling on the council to give seniors a rebate on rates rather than letting the state give that rebate for seniors from the state coffers.
There is also ongoing funding of $1.2 million for Advancing Queensland, an age-friendly community grants program. Through the first two rounds of this program, 29 organisations and local councils have delivered projects to make communities more age-friendly.