Pensioners say Budget has 'some nasty little cuts'
PENSIONER groups say their members will be relieved this year's Budget will not inflict the pain of last year's but warn there are still 'some nasty little cuts in store'.
The Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association (CPSA) says some pensioners will lose their entitlement to the pension, while others will see their pension cut.
"This tightening will be restricted to pensioners will assets over $290,000 for single homeowners and $451,500 for couple homeowners, so most pensioners will not be hurt by this change, which is welcome,'' a statement released on Tuesday night said.
"Pensioners also applaud the scrapping of restricting pension indexation to CPI.
"However, the Minister's assertion that thousands of pensioners will see an increase in income thanks to lifting the lower asset thresholds does not recognise that most of these pensioners are income tested and won't see any increase in their pension.
"A pensioner with a cash asset of $250,000 won't be better off by $1,540 per year because the interest earned off their investment would reduce their pension under the income test.
"The portability changes will be a hit to pensioners who go overseas to see family or undertake caring responsibilities for more than six weeks.
"This is a nasty little change that won't achieve large savings but will hugely impact pensioners who need to spend time outside Australia.
The aged care changes are, in general, an improvement on the status quo. Giving older people their home care funding rather than giving it directly to service providers will give them greater control over their care.
CPSA welcomes the transfer of functions of the largely ineffective Aged Care Complaints Scheme to the Aged Care Commissioner.
However, CPSA queries whether the Commissioner will have sufficient resources to handle 4,000 complaints each year and it is unclear what complainants will do if they are not satisfied with the Commissioner's decision.
At the moment, complainants take complaints to the Commissioner if they are unsatisfied with the Complaints Scheme's conduct.
Also, the Commissioner still sits under the Department of Social Services and is therefore not totally independent of government.
Combining the Commonwealth Home Support Programme and Home Care Packages Programme from July 2018 will be positive, providing it does not increase fees for the 750,000 Commonwealth Home Support Programme recipients.
CPSA also welcomes the increase in restorative care for older people as they leave hospital, which should reduce premature entry into a nursing home.
The Carer Gateway is a good reform, which will improve access to services for carers.
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
Pensioners who need a lot of medications will be slugged an extra $48.80 per year by 2019 with the proposed increase in the safety net thresholds. This could see pensioners reduce their use of life-saving medications because they cannot afford the extra cost.
Pensioners are disappointed that cheque and EFTPOS refunds for Medicare and the PBS will be phased out from July 2016. This will disproportionately impact older Australians.
CPSA welcomes the sensible reform to allow people with a terminal illness get access to their superannuation earlier if they are under retirement age.
Making the Restart program easier for employers to access is a positive step. Restart gives employers up to $10,000 to employ a long-term unemployed older person. However, it is unlikely to adequately address the problem of unemployment amongst those aged 50 and over, reiterating the need to increase Newstart to bring unemployed people out of poverty.
CPSA is dismayed at the continuation of income management at $147 million over two years, given there is no evidence that income management works. The removal of the incentive payment is another blow vulnerable people under income management.
Pensioners oppose the change to E-health, which requires people to opt out of the system if they do not want to have an E-health record. This raises serious privacy issues, especially for vulnerable people or people in poor health who may not be in a position to exercise their right to opt out.
Sadly, there is no new money to increase social housing supply, despite the record need for social housing. The continuation of funding for homelessness services for two years under the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness is, however, welcome.