Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Seniors Week boost for pensioners

More than two million older Australians of age pension or veteran pension age, receiving an income support payment, will this month benefit from a financial boost through the delivery of yet another Howard Government election commitment.

Announcing the imminent arrival of the Utilities Allowance into the bank accounts of older Australians, the Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson said the new allowance was promised during the election campaign and was being delivered on time.

“Under the Utilities Allowance singles will receive $100 a year and $50 per year will go to each member of an eligible couple. It will be paid in two instalments, automatically on a person’s income support payday, falling on or immediately after 21 March and 21 September each year.

“The Howard Government values the contribution that older Australians have made and continue to make to the community and it is fitting that the payment of this new allowance coincides with Seniors Week in NSW and Victoria.

“Some older Australians can experience difficulties in saving to pay regular household bills, such as gas and electricity and the Utilities Allowance will provide assistance in paying for such utilities,” Senator Patterson said.

In addition to the Utilities Allowance, Pension Concession cardholders already receive a range of concessions funded by the Howard Government including:

  • Pharmaceuticals listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) at a cheaper rate;
  • Free PBS prescriptions through the PBS Safety Net, after receiving 52 scripts in a calendar year;
  • Reduced out-of-hospital medical expenses, through the Medicare Safety Net; and
  • Higher Private Health Insurance Rebate to 35% for people aged 65-69 and to 40% for people aged over 70.

“The Howard Government will invest $610 million over four years towards the Utilities Allowance, building on its commitment to recognise the contribution made by older Australians.

“The strong economic management of the Howard Government has provided the opportunity to provide older Australians with the allowance that will provide significant financial assistance particularly for the larger costs such as utility costs.” Senator Patterson said.

* Note: Paragraph 1 has been amended to clarify the original release. People on income support must be of Age or Veteran Pension age to receive the Utilities Payment.