Delivering for older Australians
The Gillard Government will continue its strong record of supporting senior Australians with a number of initiatives in the 2013-14 Budget, including $112.4 million for a pilot program to support Age Pensioners and other pensioners over age pension who want to downsize their home, without it immediately affecting their pension.
This Government has been at the forefront of the debate on our ageing population, commissioning work from the Panel for Positive Ageing, to deliver priority projects designed to turn Grey into Gold.
Last year’s report from the Panel looking into the Economic Potential of Senior Australians set the scene for the further work to be done by Government in the area of housing.
Labor has a strong record of delivering for older Australians. We have delivered the biggest ever increase to the pension and reformed the indexation system so the pension better keeps pace with the cost of living.
We have also introduced a new seniors’ Work Bonus to make sure pensioners can keep more of their pension while working, and delivered another pension increase as part of the Household Assistance Package.
Since 2009, the maximum rate of the pension has gone up by $207 a fortnight for singles and $236 a fortnight for couples combined because of this Labor Government.
The Government is also continuing the full implementation of the Living Longer Living Better aged care reforms. Under the reforms, older Australians, their families and carers will get the right care and support – either in their own home or in an aged care facility.
The aged care system under Labor will be better, fairer and provide greater choice and control for older Australians.
The 2013-14 Budget builds on the Government’s work to support Australians in retirement.
Supporting seniors who downsize their home
The Government is investing $112.4 million over four years in a trial program to support Age Pensioners and other pensioners over age pension age who want to downsize their home, without it immediately affecting their pension.
Under the pension means testing rules, the value of the family home is not assessed and does not affect a person’s pension. This exemption means that many senior Australians stay in their family home, even though it may no longer be appropriate for them. This can also put pressure on the housing market.
Many pensioners want to move into housing that is more suited to their needs as they age, but are concerned that they will lose some, or all, of their pension.
Under the trial program, eligible pensioners who have lived in their own home for at least 25 years and want to downsize will need to put a minimum of 80 per cent of the excess sale proceeds from the sale of their former home into a special account, up to a maximum of $200,000 (plus earned interest). The Government will work with financial institutions to establish these accounts.
The funds in this account will not be counted under the pension income and assets test for up to ten years or until a withdrawal is made from the account.
The trial will commence on 1 July 2014 and will run for three years.
The trial will help the Government determine the extent to which the pension means test is a factor in pensioners downsizing their homes, and whether mean test exemptions help reduce some of the pressure on the housing market.
It is expected around 30,000 pensioners could benefit from the exemption throughout the trial period.
We would also like to see State Governments move to assist seniors who wish to downsize by introducing or improving concessions on stamp duty, and therefore removing a further impediment to downsizing.
Keeping seniors connected
The Gillard Government wants to ensure that senior Australians can stay connected to their families and communities and access services online.
As part of the successful Broadband for Seniors program, the Government has established around 2,000 internet kiosks for seniors around the country, providing free access to broadband internet as well as training to teach seniors new computer skills.
Kiosks in senior citizens clubs, community centres, church halls and RSLs across the country are helping older Australians stay in touch with family and friends and access information and services online.
The 2013-14 Budget delivers the Keeping Seniors Connected program, which will provide an extra $9.9 million over four years for new technology and training grants for Broadband for Seniors kiosks.
The funding will provide every Broadband for Seniors kiosk in the country that applies with a new computer and touchscreen monitor, ensuring seniors can benefit from the latest in interactive computer applications and programs.
Each kiosk can also receive a $2,000 grant to boost training and information sessions for seniors, in particular on the importance of cyber safety and personal security.
The National Broadband Network will improve the way that senior Australians can receive information and services online including healthcare, Centrelink and even face-to-face online assistance.
The Government’s investment in Broadband for Seniors kiosks will help seniors stay connected to their community and prepare them for the full benefits of Labor’s National Broadband Network.
More than 250,000 seniors have already benefited from Labor’s Broadband for Seniors program.
Investing in productive ageing research
The Government is providing $4.6 million over four years to establish the Andrew Fisher Applied Policy Institute for Ageing to place Australia at the forefront of international policy development on the opportunities and challenges of ageing populations.
The Institute will draw on the best research in universities and policy centres, and provide the Government with evidence-based advice across a range of fields, including demographic change, community engagement and participation, health and wellbeing, and infrastructure for an ageing world.
The Institute will be established in an existing research organisation as an Australian regional hub which will draw on expertise from the public, private and academic sectors.
Addressing chronic wound management
The Government will undertake a scoping study and cost-benefit analysis to look at ways to better address chronic wound management for older people living in the community.
The Gillard Government is supporting initiatives for older Australians while the opposition wants to cut initiatives like these to the bone.
This budget keeps our economy strong, makes the smart investments for our future and ensures every Australian gets a fair go.
We are investing for the future, putting jobs and economic growth first and protecting the important services that Australians rely on.
The Gillard Government is doing this to keep our economy one of the most resilient in the world – we have low unemployment, solid growth, contained inflation and low interest rates.