The federal treasurer, Scott Morrison announced several beneficial changes affecting seniors in this year’s budget.
Home Care Program
Another 14,000 places are to be created (adding to the 6,000 announced in the December mid-year adjustment). This will bring the available places up to 74,000 by 2021. However, the national priority list (from those who have registered with My Aged Care) is currently 104,000 and is likely to grow as the population ages. Currently, waiting times for an appropriate package can extend well beyond 12 months, and the extra places will alleviate the wait times but not to a significant extent.
Assuming the places are released immediately, the cost of $1.6 billion over 4 years works out at $400 million a year or $28,000 per place. This is close to the average cost across the four levels of home care packages, and indicates that the new places will not all be at the Level 4 with the current $50,000 per annum price tag.
Other aged care support
$33 million has been allocated to improving palliative care in aged care homes. This is long overdue as there has been an acute shortage of palliative care places available.
$146m has been allocated improve access to aged-care services in rural and regional areas.
$83m was allocated for increased support for mental health services in residential aged care.
An interactive tool will be developed for 65 year-olds to check their skill, finances and health.
$20m over four years is to be allocated to a pilot project targeting “loneliness” and those at risk of isolation.
Pension Loans Scheme
Pensioners who are asset rich but income poor and receive only a part-pension will now be able to borrow up to 150 per cent of the pension (previously 100 per cent) and receive a tax free loan of up to $17,800 per year. This loan is secured against the pensioner’s property and is repaid when the property is sold or the pensioner dies.
This is another reason for not selling the family home.
Employers will be able to pay a wage bonus of $10,000 when they hire people over 50 years of age.
Increased funding for Centrelink
$50 million has been allocated to update Centrelink’s IT system and improve the speed and efficiency with which they deal with customers.