MEDIA RELEASE: Seniors wary as budget measures already mixed

Senior Australians have already had some wins and losses in today’s Federal Budget but will be watching closely to make sure their vulnerable living standards are not further eroded by budget cuts, says leading seniors advocacy body COTA Australia.

COTA Chief Executive Ian Yates said that while the extension of the full breast cancer screening program to women over 70 years, for which COTA had lobbied for years, was very welcome, there was major disappointment in the Budget for unemployed mature Australians.

“It is unacceptable that the numbers of older people living on or below the poverty line is on the increase,” Mr Yates said.

“One third of all long term Newstart recipients are over 55 and, despite their best efforts to get another job, far too many are forced to live off Newstart for five or more years until they are eligible for the age pension. The result is thousands of older people struggling for years just to get by.

“The Government’s plan to increase the amount you can earn before your benefit is affected will give little comfort to seniors who just can’t get a job – an increase in the Newstart allowance remains the only solution.

“An increased investment in a long term social housing fund and an increase in the level of Commonwealth Rent Assistance would also benefit the growing number of older people finding it hard to pay their rent from a pension, with growing numbers facing homelessness.”

Mr Yates said palliative care and advanced care directives were also an issue too long put in the too hard basket and in desperate need of better funding.

“The experience of dying for older Australians and their families must be made as easy as possible and the choices and decisions of the individuals involved supported.

“There needs to be an urgent injection in funding for a five year public campaign to increase understanding of palliative care and end of life planning to improve opportunities for discussion about this often taboo subject.”

COTA’s 2013‐14 Budget Submission covered areas such as health, aged care, superannuation and housing all which have huge impacts on the quality of life of many older people. In aged care COTA had argued for the new My Aged Care Gateway to be extended to include a physical presence, in addition to the website and call centre.

Mr Yates said given the numbers of people over fifty was growing every year and it was time they were given the priority they deserved in the nations budget.

“Given the range of other cuts already announced we will be anxiously reviewing the Budget papers for reassurance that the major improvements this government has made to the age pension system and increased pension levels are not curtailed” Mr Yates said.

Edtors note: Mr Yates will be available for Budget comment until 4.00pm Tuesday and then after the Treasury Lock Up at 7.30 pm.

Media contact: Ian Yates 0418 835 439, Jane Garcia 0434 489 533