A disappointing budget for older people – Federal Budget 2020

Article published 7 October 2020

A disappointing budget for older people – Federal Budget 2020

THE Australian Government is spending $1.6 billion on 23,000 new Home Care Packages for the next four financial years. This will bring the total number of available packages to 188,000.

Unfortunately, the number of people without packages is around 59,000. This means that, based on current figures, 36,000 people assessed as needing care will remain without it in four years’ time.

There does not appear to be a recognition on the part of the Australian Government that not providing aged care to somebody who needs it is an inexcusable aged care quality and safety failure.
There is 11.3 million in 2020-21 to provide dementia services and training programs. These are important programs in that they teach care workers how to manage people with dementia who become confused or aggressive without tying them down or drugging them.

$10.3 million over three years will pay for the implementation of the stalled Aged Care Workforce Strategy. This Strategy has largely been developed by providers and it is surprising that the Government wants to go ahead with it without waiting for the recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission in February next year.

Ominously, the Government will provide $17.3 million over two years from 2020-21 to continue implementation of recommendations from the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review Taskforce “to ensure patient safety and high quality care”. This Review has led to people over 65 not being able to get knee scans through their GP. This is one that CPSA will watch.

It is disappointing that this Budget does not commit to a permanently increased JobSeeker payment.

Nor does it make any attempt to get the over-55s back into work. Wage subsidy schemes are being targeted at young people only. This makes it even more difficult for older people to find a job.

For many older people not old enough for the Age Pension, JobSeeker has become a pre-Age Pension. Before COVID-19, there were 196,000 people over 55 on unemployment benefits. The chance of them finding employment was low then, but now there are 318,000 people over 55 on unemployment benefits, an increase of more than 60 per cent.
As it stands, the Australian Government will remove the COVID-19 supplement at year end. JobSeeker without the COVID-19 supplement is $565.70 per fortnight. This is almost 40 per cent less than the pension ($933.40 per fortnight).
The Cashless Welfare Card will continue, but there will also be funding “for a trial of emerging payment acceptance technologies”. This is one to watch, because these “technologies” will almost certainly be about the Government telling social security recipients on what and where they can spend their money.

Further one-off payments will be made “from November 2020 and early 2021” to everyone who got the first two one-off payments earlier this year. This time there will be two payments of $250, and they will again be tax-free.

It is disappointing that JobMaker, the Budget’s phrase for economic stimulus through infrastructure construction, does not include social housing. Three-quarters of a million new social housing units are required over the next twenty years, an average of 37,000 a year. Currently Australia is achieving about 5,000 new units annually.
The shortfall in social housing construction is already playing havoc with housing security. Homelessness is on the rise. The failure of the Australian Government to invest in social housing at levels to cope with demand is scandalous.
A capital gains tax (CGT) exemption is available for granny flats, provided there is a formal written agreement. Only older Australians and people with a disability can benefit from this measure. It’s not available for people who want to rent out a granny flat commercially.

CGT is often a reason why granny flats are built without solid, written agreements. This can lead to financial abuse and exploitation in the event that the family relationship breaks down.

In superannuation, the Government is implementing recommendations of the Productivity Commission’s review by making it possible for workers to select a superannuation product from a list of approved funds. The fund they choose will follow them from job to job. This puts a stop to people accumulating super accounts every time they change jobs.

From July 2021, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority will conduct benchmarking tests on the performance of super funds. Funds that underperform must tell their members, who then have the choice to roll over their super savings into a better-performing fund.

Let’s hope that the May 2021 Budget delivers much better outcomes for older people. This one was disappointing.

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