Govt promises payments – but there’s still more to do

The Federal Government has ‘guaranteed’ to provide supplements for carers and seniors in this year’s budget but Carers Australia and COTA say it’s not enough.

While welcoming the Government’s guarantee that supplements for carers and seniors will be included in this year’s federal budget, the peak bodies representing those groups say more needs to be done.

The Rudd Government’s reported intention to scrap the one-off $1,600 payment for carers and the $500 payment for older people proved highly unpopular, forcing the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, to pledge that they would be continued in 2008.

“We decided to end the angst, if you like, and the concern in the community by guaranteeing all of those bonuses for this year,” Mr Swan told ABC radio.

“…I think making the most important commitment [is] to look at this and make it sustainable in the long-term.”

But Carers Australia CEO, Joan Hughes, said it was inappropriate that cuts to carers’ income were considered at all.

“Carers who receive both the Carer Payment and the Carer Allowance as well as the associated bonuses are still living off around $200 per week below the federal minimum wage,” she said in a statement.

“It is astonishing that it was ever considered to reduce carers’ income further in order to subsidise what are possibly going to be the most unpopular tax cuts in history.”

Ms Hughes also called for urgent reform of carer supports, describing the current system as “confusing and inadequate”.

COTA Over 50s also welcomed reassurances that no pensioners and carers would be “worse off” under this year’s budget.

But Executive Director Geoffrey Bird used the opportunity to reiterate the organisation’s call for a boost to the aged pension.

“A number of studies have repeatedly demonstrated that the age pension falls far short of providing for even a modest lifestyle,” Dr Bird said in a statement.

“For pensioners, life is a constant struggle to make ends meet, let alone enjoy some of the ordinary satisfactions that most Australians take for granted.”

“The Treasurer and Finance Minister are both on the record saying that they are making decisions for the long term. Getting the pension system right should be one of their key priorities.”

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