Q&A with SA's ministers

The Senior's Q&A with SA Labor in 2022

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As SA Labor settles into state power, politicians including Chris Picton (pictured) respond to questions about issues affecting The Festival State's seniors.

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WORKING FOR US: As Labor settles into state power, politicians including Chris Picton (pictured) respond to questions about issues affecting SA seniors.

WORKING FOR US: As Labor settles into state power, politicians including Chris Picton (pictured) respond to questions about issues affecting SA seniors.

In April, The Senior introduced Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Chris Picton, who is responsible for the ageing portfolio in South Australia's state government. Now, SA Labor's ministers tell us more about how they're addressing issues affecting seniors.

How can we help people aged 50 and over who have left the workforce to re-enter it to help cover staff/skill shortages, and get off JobSeeker and other benefits?

Picton:

There are a number of channels for older job-seekers to access for support and help. The Commonwealth Government's Department of Education, Skills, and Employment provides services and can be accessed online.

In our May edition you mentioned establishing a taskforce to work towards housing security for senior SA-based women. What can you tell us about this taskforce

Human Services Minister, Nat Cook:

Public housing delivered by the South Australian Housing Trust is a key safety net for older people and older women in particular - more than half of all public housing properties are home to a person aged 55 or over and the majority of our tenants are women. At the 2022 election, SA Labor committed more than $180 million in extra funding to the South Australian Housing Trust to build 400 new homes, bring 350 properties back up to standard so they can be homes again and conduct a maintenance blitz on 3,000 more.

Minister Cook is currently undertaking the planning work to establish a taskforce to examine the housing needs of older women in our community. This is not a new problem - the South Australian Housing Trust has been delivering targeted responses for this group since the early 1950s - but we need new solutions.

The government has a Safety, Wellbeing and Equality policy for women, which includes supporting senior women. Tell us more about it, including if they find themselves not eligible for income support, or are in a domestic violence situation and have incurred debts (such as a mortgage) after a marriage breakdown.

Minister for Women and the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Katrine Hildyard:

Our government is committed to addressing inequality and ensuring that all women and girls can equally and actively participate in our economy and in every aspect of community life.

Having a clear plan to address economic equality is more important than ever in the recovery from COVID-19 - a crisis that disproportionately affected women.

Our government's commitment to addressing economic equality includes investment in industries in which women make up a bigger share of the workforce including the arts, major events and tourism. We will address women's economic equality through criminalising wage theft and strengthening our labour hire laws.

Our plan also includes working with the finance and real estate industries to explore ways to address the ongoing trend of women bearing the brunt of mortgages, loans and rent that go unpaid as a result of domestic violence.

More broadly, how does the government aim to help senior citizens at risk of homelessness or are struggling to afford rent or meet mortgage payments?

Cook:

The South Australian Housing Trust also delivers the Aged Homelessness Assistance Program that provides a combination of housing and support to older people at risk of homelessness. This is part of our broader homelessness support system that receives more than $71 million state funding every year. Last month, SA Labor announced a further $6 million for homelessness services in the Adelaide CBD.

With regard to mortgage payments, South Australia is fortunate to have HomeStart Finance that is one of only two state government mortgage providers in Australia that specialise in lending to low and moderate income borrowers. HomeStart was founded under SA Labor in 1989.

The South Australian Housing Trust also provides the Private Rental Assistance Program that can help people with the upfront costs of renting a home like bond and rent in advance. For people who live in sub-standard rental properties, the Housing Safety Authority can issue compulsory repair orders and even cap rent if a home is not up to standard.

In COTA SA's 2022 State Election Platform, the organisation could not obtain data on ramping rates for older people. This was to address a feeling by older people that they were disproportionately ramped or queued in emergency departments. How can the government help ensure older South Australians are not discriminated against with their health issues when they need immediate help?

Picton:

We know that Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows that in 2020-21, patients aged 65 and over, who make up 16 per cent of the population, accounted for 21 per cent of presentations to EDs across Australian public hospitals. It's clear that older South Australians are more often taken to EDs in ambulances, in particular from nursing homes, if they need emergency care.

Unfortunately older South Australians seeking emergency treatment in EDs have been impacted by the former South Australian government's ramping crisis. Ramping escalated over the last four years, with patients stuck in ambulances waiting to be taken in EDs.

This government came to power with a plan to invest more resources in the health system to help fix the ramping crisis.

We are working to employ more doctors, nurses and ambos and open more than 300 extra beds across the hospital system to relieve pressure on hospitals, and help fix the ramping crisis. This will better support older South Australians when they need treatment and care.

How can we better support or empower senior citizens who are in volunteer positions and provide the lifeblood of their communities, such as men's and women's sheds, service clubs, and other volunteer groups?

Picton:

Volunteering is a really positive way older South Australians can stay active, and maintain links with their community, and alleviate loneliness, which can pose a bigger risk for sickness and premature death than smoking or obesity.

Older South Australians make up a significant proportion of the volunteers providing key support services across our public health system, and it is important that the State Government support them and their work.

The Office for Ageing Well provides funding to a range of organisations and not-for-profits through strategic and community grants that support older South Australians, including supporting their work as volunteers.

That includes the Ageing Well Community Grants worth $600,000 in 2021-22 which helped to fund a diverse range of projects tackling ageism and ageist stereotypes, supporting older people to actively participate in their community and recognising older South Australians for their valued contributions across their lifetime.

The Senior knows the Cost of Living Concession has been doubled and Seniors Card holders will have free public transport at all operating hours. What would you say to senior citizens to ensure they're getting the most benefits they can?

Picton:

The Malinauskas Government is supporting older South Australians by doubling the Cost of Living Concession to provide relief for people on low and fixed incomes as petrol prices and other everyday costs surge. We are also providing free public transport at all hours for older South Australians that will reduce their costs.

Older South Australians have access to hundreds of discounts and benefits through their Seniors Card, and we urge them to explore all the benefits and make the most of them.

They can access information on how to use their card through:

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