Budget 2023 delivers positive news for older Australians – particularly older women

The Federal Government’s 2023 Budget provides relief on the pressures many older Australians are experiencing.

Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia – the leading advocacy organisation for older Australians – Chief Executive Officer, Patricia Sparrow, said the introduction of budget measures designed to ease the cost-of-living pressures on Australians are important, particularly for older Australians struggling to make ends meet.

“There are many direct benefits that older Australians will receive in their wallets out of this year’s budget including energy relief of up to $500 per year, cheaper medicines, more GPs bulk billing pensioners and healthcare card holders without a co-payment, $15 a week more rent assistance, $20 a week more in JobSeeker payments, and an additional $46 more a week in JobSeeker if you’re 55 years old or older battling ageism when looking for a job for more than 9 months,” Ms Sparrow said.

“We know that older women are disproportionately impacted by unemployment and are unfortunately the fastest growing group at risk of homelessness, so budget measures that address those issues are not just welcomed, they’re crucial.

“55% of older JobSeekers and those receiving Rent Assistance are women. They’re 6% less likely to have a superannuation account and if they do, their balances are about a quarter lower than men’s.

COTA Australia welcomed the new health initiatives in the Budget.

“Reforming Medicare to ensure that every Australian, no matter their age or where they live, can get access to the support they need is an important step.

“It’s particularly pleasing to see Government act to improve access to bulk billing by tripling the incentive payment to GPs.  Older people have told us that they can’t afford to see their doctor because bulk billing is now only available through limited services, so this commitment is timely and very welcome.

Ms Sparrow acknowledged that the Government’s commitment to aged care reforms continue with an overall aged care spend increasing to $36B in 2023/24.

“We’ve seen substantial action taken in the aged care space in the form of a long overdue increased pay for aged care workers and reforms which include 24/7 nursing in facilities and a guaranteed 215 care minutes. We know from older people that having enough well-trained staff makes a huge difference in the quality of care provided.

“There’s no question that there’s still a need for far greater reform in aged care, so it’s disappointing that the creation of the new Support at Home Program has been delayed yet again in this budget.

“Older people want to remain living in their own homes and often have to wait for months before they can get the support they need. However, it is good to see an increase of 9500 home care packages and the foundations for a new home care program being laid with work continuing on a single assessment system.

“We look forward to the new Aged Care Taskforce taking action to deliver on the next set of fundamental reforms, particularly ensuring a rights based system, self-management, improved support at home, sustainability and increased transparency in the sector.

“We would also encourage the independent interim Inspector-General to take a broad ranging view in his role to ensure that the contemporary needs of older people are at the heart of these reforms and that the reshaped system delivers the quality care older Australians are waiting for.

“The Government has extended public dental services which is important. Older Australians wait for long periods of time on public dental waiting lists and can ill afford to seek dental treatment through private practice. We will be looking for how the Federal Government will deliver more accessible dental care for older Australians in future budgets.

“The budget includes measures that strengthen digital protections and education which older Australians will benefit from.  Consideration is being given to acceptance of digital ID which will hopefully assist the 2.1 million older people without a driver’s license who currently struggle to prove who they are just because they have a proof of age card instead.

“Requiring superannuation to be paid on pay day is a simple measure that will benefit workers and improve retirement savings for older Australians. Everyone deserves to live comfortably in retirement and while of course this won’t solve all the problems people face when it comes to retirement income, it’s certainly a very sensible step forward.

“Funding to ensure the ATO has the teeth to be able to ensure compliance around the new superannuation requirements is crucial and it’s good to see that included in budget.”

All lines above are attributable to Patricia Sparrow, Chief Executive Officer, of COTA Australia. Patricia Sparrow is available for comment via media contacts below.