2019 Federal Budget - Social Security and Family Assistance

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Apr 3, 2019 | Posted in Superannuation
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SOCIAL SECURITY

Energy assistance payment

The Government announced a one-off payment of $75 for singles and $62.50 for each member of an eligible couple ($125/couple) who receive a qualifying Centrelink payment on 2 April 2019 to provide relief from high energy costs. Qualifying payments include the Age Pension, Carer Payment, Disability Support Pension, Parenting Payment Single, and Veterans’ pensions and payments. The cost of the payment will be $285 million.

While a blatant cash splash pre the Federal Election, (likely to be in May) the Energy Assistance payment will be welcomed by many.

Changing the social security income assessment model

This is an integrity measure where the Government projects savings of around $2.1 billion by automating the reporting of employment income for Centrelink purposes through the Single Touch Payroll system.  The savings will occur by reducing the likelihood of income support recipients receiving an overpayment through incorrect reporting of their income. 

Given the casualization of the Australian work force, this is a long overdue measure which provide large efficiencies in the reporting of employment income which changes significantly week to week for many Centrelink recipients. The already existing Single Touch Payroll system administered by the ATO will now be shared with the Department of Human Services.

There is no change to the eligibility criteria or payment rates for Centrelink benefits.

AGED CARE

Access to aged care

In an effort to increase access to Aged Care the Government announced a number of targeted expenditures in this area:

  • $320.0 million for a one-off increase to the basic subsidy for residential aged care recipients.
  • $35.7 million will be provided to increase to the dementia and the veterans’ home care supplements to support home care recipients who require additional care to stay in their homes longer.
  • $4.6 million to trial a residential care needs assessment funding tool as an alternative to the existing Aged Care Funding Instrument.
  • $7.1 million will be provided over two years to improve payment administration arrangements for home care packages to align home care arrangements with other Government programs, such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

While any funding in this area are greatly needed, it is unlikely to keep pace with aging Australians and the need for quality Aged Care.

Home care packages

Existing Home Care packages are designed to support older Australians to stay in their own homes longer before having to enter an Aged Care facility.   The Government announced spending of  $282.4 million over five years from 2018-19 for an additional 10,000 home care packages across all levels. Australians with dementia or requiring cognition support will benefit from additional funding for home care supplements, and the Government is providing $7.7 million to develop an end-to-end compliance framework for home care.

Anyone who has assisted an elderly resident obtain Home Care will not be surprised to learn that there are often 120,000 people on the waiting list, waiting for over 12 months to obtain support.  An additional 10,000 packages obviously does not go far enough in providing a solution to this issue.  This is a critical issue as keeping older Australians in their own homes significantly reduces the overall cost of long term Aged Care to the Australian tax payer.

Residential aged care safety and quality

The Budget papers provide for an additional 13,500 residential care places with a $60 million investment in infrastructure. The Government is providing a $320 million general subsidy for residential aged care and $8.4 million will be provided to introduce mandatory reporting against several national residential care quality indicators.

Given that there is currently a Royal Commission into Aged Care and early reports have been scathing of the problems in the sector, it is not surprising that Budget included an allocation to improve Aged Care.  Once again 13,500 residential care places is a drop in the bucket to what is actually needed.  The problem for Australia of course is that we have an ageing population with a shrinking tax payer base.

Commonwealth home support program

The Government will provide $5.9 billion over two years from 2020-21 to extend the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) funding arrangements. The CHSP contributes to essential home support services, such as meals (Meals on Wheels), personal care, nursing, domestic assistance, home maintenance, and community transport, to assist older people to keep living independently in their own home.

Elder abuse

The Government has announced a National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians. The plan states that "we must act now to do more to reduce the prevalence of abuse of older people. The abuse of older people is a complex health and social problem that can have devastating physical, emotional and social consequences for older people, their families and their communities.” The Plan includes $18 million to create a new National Hotline (1800 ELDERHelp or 1800 353 374) and conducting trials of frontline services for victims of abuse. Other measures in this area include:

  • $1.5 million towards developing a Serious Incident Response Scheme.
  • Establishment of the independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission from 1 January 2019.

When announcing this measure prior to the Budget, Age Discrimination Commissioner Kay Patterson said "I think for a long while we haven’t had studies because people thought children wouldn’t do the things they’re doing to their mothers and fathers … that the issue was a rare one,” (Australian Newspaper 03/04/2019).

This is an area that we are passionate about, and it is great to see in depth discussion and prevention of the abuse of older Australians starting to occur.

Want to learn more about the budget?

Check out our 2019 budget summaries for the below categories.  (Click on the images below to jump to these sections)


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