While the 2020–2021 budget offers some benefits, there’s still a lot that needs to be done to uphold the rights of older Australians.
In the last edition of COTA Connects, we told you about some of the hot ticket items COTA had asked to be included in this year’s budget. Our key priority areas were:
- pension and income support
- future retirement income policy
- aged care reform
- employment of older Australians
The federal budget was handed down by the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, on Tuesday 6 October. So how did we go?
Pensions and income support
- Aged and disability pensioners will receive an additional $250 supplement in December and another in March. These payments will also be available to Pensioner Concession Card holders, Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders, eligible Veterans’ Affairs payment recipients and concession card holders.
- The government has announced additional funding for the Pension Loans Scheme, which helps older Australians access voluntary non-taxable loans.
- COTA Australia has been advocating for an increase to the rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance and the abolishment of the Liquid Assets Test for jobseeker payments. Unfortunately, neither of these measures were included in this year’s budget.
Future retirement income policy
- The government has announced new measures to improve the transparency and accountability of super funds. The ‘Your Super, Your Future’ reforms aim to help people make more informed decisions about where their superannuation savings will earn the best return and reduce unnecessary fees.
- COTA Australia’s submission to the Retirement Income Review made a number of recommendations in relation to the age pension, compulsory superannuation and private savings. Disappointingly, the government has not made any announcements in response to the Retirement Income Review. COTA continues to call for the release of the final review report so that we can all share the rich data it provides and discuss positive ways of strengthening Australia’s retirement income system.
Aged care reform
- The government has announced a number of new reforms relating to aged care. Among these is the funding of an additional 23,000 home care packages at a cost of $1.6 billion. Unfortunately, though, there has been no commitment to get waiting times down to 30 days and ensure no one is prematurely forced into residential care. That’s why COTA Australia will be pushing for further increases in the May 2021 budget.
- Other items of interest include increased funding for unexpected inspections of residential aged care facilities, increased funding for the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and increased funding for staff training, including dementia training.
- The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will provide its final report to Government in February 2021, after which the government will provide a comprehensive response to the Royal Commission’s recommendations.
Employment of older Australians
- The Treasurer has announced a number of new employment-related measures, however many of them were skewed towards the needs of younger jobseekers.
- The government has not announced any new initiatives to support unemployed mature-aged workers.
- While some mature-aged workers may benefit from increased investment in mainstream job-matching and employment transition programs, COTA will continue to advocate for measures that are more responsive to the needs of Australia’s ageing population.
- The budget includes more concessional loans for affordable housing, but no measures to make new housing affordable to people on low incomes.
- COTA Australia welcomes the abolishment of the Capital Gains tax on ‘granny flat’ arrangements provided there is a formal legal agreement in place to protect the interests of the older person concerned.
In summary, the 2020–2021 budget offers some benefits for older Australians, but we have a lot more work to do to ensure the rights of older Australians are adequately upheld. If you have any questions about COTA Australia’s work in relation to the federal budget, please contact COTA Australia directly on (02) 6154 9740 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.