AS MORE and more elderly Australians find themselves struggling to buy food and pay for housing, medical expenses and power, one of the country’s leading charities says enough is enough.
The Benevolent Society is ramping up a national campaign – Fix Pension Poverty – to get the federal government to address the inadequacy of the age pension.
More than 1.5 million people rely solely on the age pension. An increase in March saw the single payment rise by $13.20 to $907.60 per fortnight, while a couple received a combined increase of $19.80 to $1368.20 including supplements.
However, it is estimated that more than 30 per cent of over-65s live in poverty, with those paying rent doing it the toughest. Some age pensioners pay more than half their income on private rental, with little left for the basics.
"We know that pensioners’ circumstances are enormously diverse, however, there are some things about pensioners’ lives that we can state with confidence.
"We know that there are areas of severe deprivation, where particular groups go without adequate food, housing, heating, medical supplies, dentistry and other vital essentials.None of these shortfalls would be part of a reasonable standard of living acceptable to most Australians. The shortfalls are concentrated among singles, women and renters, especially when someone falls into several of these categories. At the very minimum, our age pension policy should redress these deprivations."
– Adequacy of the Age Pension report, The Benevolent Society.
Society advocacy campaigner Joel Pringle said the organisation aimed to make the age pension a priority in the lead-up to the next federal election.
“We’ve been visiting voters in what we believe will be strategic key electorates,” he said. Community groups and leaders have also been approached to establish Fix Pension Poverty groups in their area.
Mr Pringle said the response had been encouraging.
The society has set out a $10 billion plan it believes can be funded by government savings. Measures include:
- Establishing an independent tribunal to determine the base rate of the age pension
- Increasing the maximum rate of commonwealth rent assistance to reduce the gap between pensioners who are home owners and renters
- Indexing rent assistance to housing costs instead of the CPI to more accurately reflect changes in costs
- Introducing Medicare-funded dental care to full pensioners
- Increasing awareness of government schemes that subsidise or reimburse costs associated with non-pharmaceutical health expenses
- Co-ordinating or replacing state-based utilities rebates for pensioners to prevent utility costs rising as a proportion of pensioner expenses
- Introducing a broadband supplement or rebate for internet related expenses
Sign up to the campaign at www.fixpensionpoverty.org.au
The Benevolent Society 1800-236-762.
See the full report at bit.ly/2qKC33h
Rentals almost unaffordable
- Anglicare research has shown that fewer than two private rental homes in every hundred are affordable for a single age pensioner (rent below 30 per cent of income). In Sydney, a single age pensioner would have about $30 to live on after paying the weekly median rent on a one-bedroom apartment.
- Foodbank, a leading distributor of food aid, estimates 13 per cent of the people it helps are aged over 65.
- In 2016, Fair Work Australia calculated that a single adult of working age needed about $34,000 to function in today’s society. The age pension at that time was $22,700.