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Pensioners to score budget boost

Lucy Dean
·3-min read
Pictured: Pensioner in grocery store, Australian Social Services Minister Anne Ruston. Images: Getty
Minister Anne Ruston has confirmed more support is coming for pensioners. Images: Getty

Australian pensioners are set to score a cash boost in the October budget, Minister for Social Services Anne Ruston has said.

"Further support around our pensions is something that is contained in the budget," Ruston told the Sydney Morning Herald, although she declined to say what form the increase will take.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also flagged further support for pensioners, saying in August that he and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg plan to work through the issues affecting pensioners.

It comes after calls from the Council on the Ageing (COTA) for an extra $750 stimulus payment for Australia’s age pensioners. Pensioners have received two $750 stimulus payments this year.

“We urge the Government to provide an additional $750 stimulus payment as part of your economic stimulus measures, for the benefit of both pensioners and the economy,” COTA chief executive Ian Yates said, noting that pensioners this year will not receive an automatic indexation increase as inflation has gone backwards.

He said that pensioners are facing a changed spending and pricing environment that is seeing their actual purchasing power reduce.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic period prices affecting pensioners have fluctuated for a variety of reasons,” Yates wrote to Ruston in August.

“The impact of increased costs has been compounded by a reduced number of “specials” or “discounts” to the ticket price for many food items, and reduced access to “specials” by cost conscious pensioners when they are following government advice to stay at home and shop from home.

“In doing so they have also incurred the additional costs of home delivery. While the CPI has gone down because of the impact of items like childcare this does not help age pensioners.”

Yates said many pensioners lie near the poverty line while private renters live below it, and advice against using public transport is another element pushing the cost of living up.

“While the two previous $750 payments have been very welcome, pensioners have ended up with less income in this period than people on the increased level of Jobseeker.”

Anglicare has also called on the Government to provide more support to aged pensioners, after it released research finding that of early 77,000 rental listings across the country, only a small portion were affordable for those on the pension.

"Older people and people with disability are at greater risk during this pandemic. But instead of getting more support, they’ve been left behind," said executive director of Anglicare Australia, Kasy Chambers.

“Our Rental Affordability Update shows that an age pensioner can afford 0.8 per cent of rental listings across Australia. That’s even fewer than our last snapshot in March. Disability Support Pensioners face an even tougher situation. They can afford just 0.3 per cent.”

She said the Government needed to address a shortfall of 400,000 social homes, warning that if it fails to do so, Australian pensioners will be “left to the mercy of the market”.

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