29 April 2019
Australian seniors want their fortnightly pension to increase by at least 20 per cent while at the same time be able to sell their family home without losing pension access, according to a new survey conducted by Downsizing.com.au.
Over the past week, Downsizing.com.au has conducted a snap Federal election survey among its 20,000-strong Facebook community.
The preliminary results of the survey, from 205 respondents, show that the pension amount, and being able to access the pension, are top of mind for Australia’s seniors.
According to these results, 80 per cent of respondents believe it is not possible to adequately live on the pension, against nine per cent who say it is possible. A further 11.5 per cent said they did not rely on the pension.
“With the price of rates, utilities, insurances and food going up…(the) age pension is not going up,” one survey respondent said. “I’m sitting here, as so many others, cold (and) not able to get warm . Also medication is not free. We own our home and it still doesn’t help on the pension.”
“If you own your own home and have no other debts you can survive on it, but it doesn't take much to push one over the edge either,” another respondent said.
“One unexpected and large bill can do it and who knows when major home maintenance bills will strike, or an unexpected illness deplete the savings even when one has health insurance.”
When asked by what level the pension should be increased, the most popular response (supported by 31.1 per cent of respondents) was 20 per cent. The next popular response was a 50 per cent increase (supported by 28.8 per cent of respondents).
Just 3.5 per cent of respondents thought the pension didn’t need to be increased.
A 20 per cent increase would see the basic fortnightly pension rate for couples increase from $1,271 to $1,525, and for singles from $843 to $1,012.
Other policy priorities
The survey then sought feedback about ten other potential policy and funding initiatives which could be introduced to support seniors.
According to the preliminary results, the most popular initiative among the survey respondents would be for the government to exempt family home sale proceeds from the pension assets test (and therefore help pensioners to keep their existing pension level even if they downsize into a new home).
Some 141 survey respondents listed this as among their top five priorities.
The policy change is also strongly supported by a number of property and seniors advocacy groups, who argue it will help seniors move into more appropriate accommodation and also free-up existing homes for younger families.
The next most popular initiative supported by respondents was to stop the progressive increase in the age threshold before you can access the pension (due to be increased to age 67 in 2023). This was supported by 140 of respondents as a top five priority.
Other highly ranked priorities included:
- Greater government support to pay power bills (133 responses in support)
- Increase the maximum rate of Commonwealth rent assistance (98 responses in support)
- Expanding the provision of basic dental care to pensioners (97 responses in support); and
- Retaining access to franking credit refunds (96 responses in support)
On April 28, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announced that, if elected, he will invest $2.4 billion to allow three million pensioners access to free dental care. The plan will allow pensioners to get $1000 of free dental work every two years.
Our survey remains open, so make sure you fill it out here. We will be letting the nation’s political leaders know about these results and see if we get a response.
By Mark Skelsey, News Editor at Downsizing.com.au. Please contact Mark at [email protected]