National Seniors Chief Advocate Ian Henschke has said that the rising number of older Australians being treated for hypothermia and cold-related problems is an ‘indictment on Government’.
“This is totally unacceptable in a caring society.”
Responding to figures released by NSW Health Dept and the findings from a Monash University study[i], Mr Henschke called for immediate action.
“What will it take for our politicians to recognise that energy affordability is at crisis point?
“We need an Energy Supplement that actually keeps pace with rising costs – as things stand, it’s fast becoming worthless.
“That, in tandem with an inadequate Aged Pension, means that people are struggling. And, evidently, some people, particularly those on their own, are suffering terribly.”
According to National Seniors, the foremost consumer lobby for older Australians, more than half a million people rely on the pension as their sole source of income.
“More than a quarter of a million pensioners don’t own their own home and, on average, a pensioner receives only a third of what is needed to pay the rent. That’s before you talk about heating or eating,” Mr Henschke said.
“Energy costs have jumped 90 per cent over the past decade, hitting pensioners on low incomes hardest. Indexing the Energy Supplement in line with the energy component of CPI would help pensioners and encourage government action to keep energy prices stable.
“But that’s just the beginning – we also need an Age Pension Tribunal to independently set the Age Pension rate so that it’s no longer an easy target for budget cuts and to ensure that the rate is both fair and adequate. Currently, it is neither,” he added.
The Energy Supplement for a single pensioner is worth $366.60 per year and $550 per year for a couple combined. Inflation means the value of the Energy Supplement is declining.
The Energy Supplement used to be indexed so that inflation would not erode its value. However, indexation was removed in the 2014-15 Budget and held at the June 2014 rate from 1 January 2015.