Income support payments including the Age Pension and JobSeeker as well as Rent Assistance have been increased from 20 September, however, more needs to be done to help those hit particularly hard by cost-of-living pressures.
Since 20 September 2023, the Age Pension, Veteran Payment, Disability Support Pension and Carer Payment have received an increase because of indexation.
The maximum rate of the single Age Pension rose by $32.70 per fortnight (taking it from $1064 to $1096.70) and for couples, by $49.40 per fortnight (taking their combined payment from $1604 to $1653.40).
Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said while people who rely on the Age Pension welcome the increase, under the current system pensioners are still behind, especially when inflation is unusually high.
Several other government payments also increased on 20 September in line with announcements made in the May Budget.
Single JobSeeker Payment recipients now receive a base payment of $749.20 per fortnight, a $56.10 increase. For JobSeeker recipients aged 55-59 unemployed for more than 9 months, the payment increased by $96.10 per fortnight.
A welcome change is the 15 per cent increase to Commonwealth Rent Assistance. The maximum rate for a single renter rose by $27.60 to $184.80 per fortnight, for a couple by $26 to $174.
“It’s a good start but more needs to be done to help renters,” Mr Henschke said.
“We recently heard from a couple paying $920 a fortnight in rent. As pensioners, this leaves them with only $907.40 a fortnight to pay for food, fuel, utilities, and other expenses.”
Income limits for eligibility for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card are increasing by $5,400 to $95,400 per annum for singles and by $8,640 to $152,640 for couples combined. With deeming rates frozen for two years, more self-funded retirees could now be eligible for concessions.
“More can be done to support older people doing it tough. As recent National Seniors research showed, a greater proportion of people with low incomes and those who are renting are suffering from cost-of-living pressures,” Mr Henschke said.
“For example, 39 per cent of older renters told us they were experiencing severe cost-of-living impacts compared to only 11 per cent of older homeowners.
“What we need is additional targeted support for people with limited means and to stop punishing those who need to work.
“In our Employment White Paper Submission we have called on the government to simplify the tax and transfer system to boost workforce participation, and with it income and savings.
“We want a change to income test rules for pensioners who want to work and work more. This could be achieved by reducing the taper rate from 50c to 32.5c in the dollar to align with the tax system. It’s simple, fair, will help solve critical workforce shortage, and boost the budget bottom line.
“We will continue to fight for a system that improves people’s lives.”