THE review of the Age Pension in 2008 led to a one-off increase in the single rate pension across the Age Pension, the Disability Support Pension and Carer Payment.
The same review also saw the creation of an additional pension indexation mechanism, the Pensioner and Beneficiaries Cost of Living Index.
There is no doubt that the 2008 review improved the lot of single people relying on the pension, but it didn’t address the plight of partnered people and it didn’t address endemic issues that arise with dependence on a pension-type payment as the sole source of income.
While full rate pensioners are already struggling to cover ordinary living expenses, it’s the big items that often prove to be killers. Literally, in some cases.
What has become clear over the last dozen years or so since the pension review is that pensioners whose sole source of income is the pension have great difficulty meeting the cost of home maintenance (if they are homeowners), replacement of whitegoods and essential appliances and furniture, the rent (if they rent privately), the cost of healthcare and the cost of transport (if they have no option to run their own car or have to use taxis).
Healthcare is of particular concern. CPSA members report major problems with accessing healthcare. They report being unable to afford consultation with medical specialists and unable to pay for the more expensive diagnostic tests. Certain prescription medications are not available under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. At the same time, simple clean-and-check-up visits to the dentist are unaffordable for many full rate pensioners, let alone dental therapies.
Quite often this means they forgo medical attention beyond bulk-billed services.
While it is true that the majority of expensive medical and dental services are available under public health programs, these programs are universally under-resourced, which means lengthy waiting lists. Quite often, the waiting times are so long that health conditions have deteriorated to the point where therapy can no longer be effective. No records are kept but how many people die while they are on the waiting list for cataract surgery.
Also, the poverty faced by well over a quarter of a million Australians aged over-55 but not yet of pension age is severe. Despite the recent, one-off increase in JobSeeker, their payment is still well below the pension: 35 per cent below the pension for singles and 21 per cent below the pension for couples.
It is clear that the majority of this age group will never find a permanent job. They are condemned to eking out an existence until they reach pension age. At that point, they will merely move from a state of extreme poverty to a state where they are unable to fund anything beyond their daily needs.
It is clear that the time has come for a review into the social security arrangements for people of all ages on low, fixed incomes such as the Age Pension, the Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment and JobSeeker for the long term. CPSA has written to the Australian Government advocating such a review. If you support this, email us with your support on email@example.com .
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