The Australian Budget released on 8 May has changed a wide range of policies and funding of interest to older Australians, across areas such as pensions, skills enhancement and aged care.
Among the pension initiatives include:
- expanding the Pension Work Bonus to boost income for age pensioners. Under this change, the first $300 of income from work each fortnight will not count towards the pension income test;
- For the first time the Government is also extending eligibility for the Work Bonus to earnings from self employment. That means a pensioner can earn $7,800 per year through self-employment without impacting his or her pension;
- providing more time for people with modest balances to boost their savings, by introducing a one-year exemption from the work test for voluntary contributions to superannuation;
- expanding the Pension Loans Scheme (effectively a government ‘reserve mortgage scheme’) to those on the full pension and self-funded retirees. Under this scheme, more than 1 million full rate pensioners across Australia will be able to increase their income by up to $11,799 (singles) or $17,787 (couples) per year by unlocking the equity in their home.
- From 1 July 2019, new age pension means testing rules will be introduced for pooled lifetime income streams.
Among the skills-based initiatives include:
- expanding access to the $10,000 Restart wage subsidy to encourage more businesses to hire and retain mature age workers;
- creating a new $2,000 Skills and Training Incentive to support mature age workers to reskill and upskill;
- rolling out the Skills Checkpoint for Older Workers program. This program will give Australians aged 45 to 70 advice on how to best use their existing skills in the workforce, or identify opportunities for upskilling;
- expanding the Entrepreneurship Facilitators program to support mature age entrepreneurs.
Among the aged care initiatives include:
- increasing funding for home care, to support Australians to better access their choice of care, with 14,000 additional high level home care packages by 2021-22;
- supporting access to aged care services in rural, regional and remote Australia;
- improving the My Aged Care website to make the aged care system easier to navigate;
- establishing a new, independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to ensure the aged care system is providing the quality of care the community expects;
- providing $22 million to protect older Australians from abuse, including by funding trials of specialist elder abuse support services; and
- working with the States and Territories to develop a national online register of enduring powers of attorney.
More information is available in these fact sheets.
We'll publish further information on aspects of these changes in coming days...
Amanda Graham is Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Seniors Housing Online and Downsizing.com.au