“BETTER than a slap in the face with a wet fish but not enough to make a difference”. That’s how one reader of The Senior described the age pension increase.
It was only one of a number of disparaging comments that followed the announcement of the modest rise – $13.20 to $907.60 per fortnight for singles and $9.90 to $684.10 for each member of a couple (inclusive of a small rise in the pension supplement) – which comes into effect today (March 20).
Rent assistance also increased.
“Cruel and humiliating”, “pretty pathetic”, “welcome but not enough”, “gobbled up quickly by increases everywhere else”, were other opinions expressed on The Senior’s Facebook page as many seniors report just keeping their financial heads above water.
Payment rates for pensions and allowances are adjusted twice a year. Pension increases are linked to prices and wages, and allowances are linked to the Consumer Price Index. The increases are designed to compensate for cost of living increases, not improve standards of living for struggling pensioners.
The latest rise is one of the larger indexation increases in recent times, but according to advocacy and social welfare groups still leaves the pension woefully inadequate.
In September last year the increase was $6.10 (single) and $4.60 (each member of a couple); 12 months ago the increases were $11.20 and $8.40 respectively.
“When you have more than one-third of pensioners living below the poverty line there is something seriously wrong with the system,” said National Seniors chief advocate Ian Henschke.
His organisation has called for an independent tribunal to set the age pension and supports the national Fix Pension Poverty campaign developed by the Benevolent Society.
The Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association warned that even with the increases, the pension “still isn’t sufficient to meet the needs of retirees living on the edge”.
“Every dollar counts for people living on these payments and the government must do more to ensure that pensioners are not falling into poverty, ill health and even homelessness due to the inadequacy of the pension,” said senior policy officer Eliza Littleton.
The assets level at which the pensions are no longer paid have increased from $552,000 to $556,500 (single homeowner), $755,000 to $759,500 (single non-homeowner) and $830,000 to $837,000 (combined couple homeowner) and $1,033,000 to $1,040,000 (couple non-homeowner).
Retirees whose incomes now fall within the assets limits (because of the assets level increase or reduced assets) need to notify Centrelink of their possible eligibility for a part-pension as payments are not paid automatically.
- For a breakdown of new rates click HERE. For payment enquiries, Centrelink 132-300.
Just $274 a week
FIFTY cents a day. That’s all Newstart recipients will receive as a result of the March 20 rises.
And, according to the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), this makes the older unemployed some of the most disadvantaged people in the country.
A raft of payments including Newstart Allowance, Widow Allowance, Partner Allowance and Sickness Allowance went up just $7 a fortnight to $554.60.
ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie said 348,000 people aged over 45 relied on Newstart.
“Many would have been made redundant or are trying to get back into work after caring for a family,” she said.
“How can we expect anyone to live on $274 a week for any period of time, let alone over 12 months?”
Benevolent Society heads campaign
FIX Pension Poverty is an initiative of the Benevolent Society, which is promoting a number of solutions including:
- Basing decisions on the age pension rate (and supporting payments) on evidence of need, not party politics
- Providing free dentistry for people receiving the age pension
- Increasing Commonwealth Rental Assistance by 30 per cent for couples and 50 per cent for singles.