There are calls for the government to establish an independent Age Pension Tribunal to determine an adequate pension rate, as new research shows many pensioners are suffering “substantial deprivation.”
The new report released this week by think tank Per Capita and aged care provider The Benevolent Society provided further evidence that the current level of the Age Pension fell short of allowing an acceptable standard of living.
The report, The Adequacy of the Age Pension in Australia: An assessment of pensioner living standards, found older women who rent privately and live solely on the pension were particularly at risk.
Some 1.5 million older Australians rely on the Age Pension and almost a third of them are living in poverty, the study found.
The new research adds to previous work that has consistently highlighted the issues facing seniors who rely on the pension, and the need for urgent affordable seniors housing.
In March Australian Ageing Agenda reported on a study that found half a million older Australian women were living in long-term income poverty (read that story here).
The new report, which was launched on Wednesday, also called for an increase in the maximum rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) to reduce the gap between age pensioners who are home owners and those who are renters.
It also proposed indexing the CRA to housing costs instead of CPI in order to more accurately reflect changes in costs faced by renters.
Lead author of the report, David Hetherington of Per Capita’s Centre for Applied Policy on Positive Ageing (CAPPA), said an independent tribunal to address this complex issue will help define an adequate Age Pension.
“The Age Pension Tribunal would be similar to Fair Work Australia for the minimum wage or the Remuneration Tribunal which determines the remuneration of key commonwealth offices, including politicians,” he said.
The research findings shed a light on the lived experience of hardship for many pensioners in Australia, Mr Hetherington said.
“The analysis of the HILDA (Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia) quantitative survey is added to by our qualitative research of focus groups we conducted with pensioners from across the country – they add a deeply human insight in the age pension adequacy issue,” he said.
The Benevolent Society’s CEO Jo Toohey said it was clear the Age Pension was inadequate.
“It is unacceptable that people who have contributed to society all their lives are forced to live at or below the poverty line,” she said.
Watch The Benevolent Society’s campaign video:
Report co-author Everald Compton, founder of National Seniors Australia and chair of the Longevity Innovation Hub, said the pension should be determined by the expenditure that pensioners make daily rather than the current complex method.
“It is the intention of our team to relentlessly pursue with vigour a solution so that pensioners achieve a lifestyle which is clearly above the poverty line. A prosperous nation such as Australia can do no less,” Mr Compton said.
Other recommendations from the report are for a Medicare-funded dental care to all full pensioners, and for an increase in government schemes that subsidise or reimburse costs associated with non-pharmaceutical health expenses.
Access the full report: The Adequacy of the Age Pension in Australia: An assessment of pensioner living standards
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