‘A fair go for all’: Expert calls for assistance for seniors in federal budget

Feb 18, 2020
: COTA has released its pre-budget submission to the Federal Government. Source: Getty

The needs of Australian seniors must be prioritised in this year’s Federal Budget to avoid them slipping further behind the rest of the population, the country’s leading advocate for older people says.

In a matter of months the government will announce its final budget of the year, with spendings detailed in Parliament on May 12. And while there are many issues people want addressed throughout 2020, COTA says there needs to be a specific focus on seniors and how they can be better supported in Australia.

Reform in health, aged care and employment sectors are among the organisation’s priorities, with claims many tens of thousands of older Aussies are still being left behind. COTA chief executive Ian Yates says the 2020/21 budget must allocate significant funding to these areas to ensure seniors have equitable access to services which meet their specific needs and honours their human rights.

Retirement funding remains a key issue for COTA, with the organisation calling for the establishment of an independent body to advise the government on any changes to retirement incomes.

Linked to the issue of retirement income are elements such as employment among mature age workers and rent allowance, both of which can present significant financial issues for over-60s across the country.

COTA recommends the development of specialist jobseeker agencies with specific skills and training in the needs of older workers.

Unemployment in the over-50 age group has become a major problem for Aussies and according to Yates, “blatant discrimination” and ageism in the workforce is to blame. COTA recommends changes to the Age Discrimination Act for stronger action against discrimination and to clarify employers’ rights to encourage mature age applicants.

“Mature age employment is another issue the budget must urgently address,” Yates said. “Older Australians face blatant discrimination from employers while still below the retirement age, while many wish to continue to work beyond that age.

“We have also reiterated our call for raising the Newstart rate by at least $75 per week to help the hundreds of thousands of jobseekers, including a great many older Australians, who live below the poverty line while locked out of the workforce.”

Other major changes COTA would like to see revolve around the country’s aged care sector, with the recent royal commission highlighting the mistreatment and neglect of older Aussies in care. The organisation calls for a reduction in waiting times for home care packages (HCP) to 60 days or less, and an increase in training of aged care staff to help combat these issues.

This follows COTA’s calls last year for the government to reduce waiting times to no more than three months, claiming HCPs are the “big ticket item” in aged care.

“The government must respond by creating comprehensive, easily accessible information, assessment and case management services and programs to empower older Australians and provide the information they need to make and achieve their choices about their care and support,” Yates said.

The final key budget area, according to COTA is health services, specifically dental care. Yates said the government must work to reduce wait times for vulnerable people, including the older population, and funding for a mobile dental service trial to improve access for older Australians to services.

The Federal Budget 2020-2021 will be handed down to Parliament on May 12.

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Would do you think needs to be included in the Federal Budget? Do you agree with COTA's recommendations?

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