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Mixed reactions to Federal budget from Service providers

While the Budget has given older people wanting to downsize some new incentives, some service providers are concerned the budget doesn’t help those on low incomes, and others fear services will be decreased or lost. 

Measures to improve housing affordability have been welcomed by providers (Source: Shutterstock)
Measures to improve housing affordability have been welcomed by providers (Source: Shutterstock)

“This year’s Budget is a lost opportunity to tackle inequality. Instead, we’ve gotten another Budget that pits Australians against each other,” Anglicare Australia Executive Director, Kasy Chamberssay. 

“Support payments for job seekers, pensioners, and people with disabilities have become a poverty trap. They’re so low that paying rent means you can’t then afford to buy food, clothing, transport or go to the doctor.

She says this Budget has frozen those payments at dangerously low levels, ignoring calls from the business and community sectors to increase them as a matter of urgency.

However Ms Chamberssay feels there are promising signs on housing in this Budget. “The Government has committed to raising money from the right places and funding measures that make a good start on making housing more affordable and tackling homelessness. For example, the bond aggregator for community housing is good news.

Uniting Communities also welcomed some Federal Budget measures to improve housing affordability, including making it easier for older Australians to move into smaller, more practical homes. 

Retirees who want to “downsize” will be permitted to deposit up to $300,000 of the proceeds of a family home sale tax-free into their super.

Uniting Communities Chief Executive, Simon Schrapel, says many older Australians have been hesitant to downsize due to restrictive pension assets test and superannuation rules. 

“The incentives announced in the Federal Budget will mean older Australians, especially here in South Australia, will be encouraged to move out of their big family home and into something that better suits their retirement lifestyle,” he says.

While Alzheimer’s Australia welcomes the expansion of the National Disability Insurance Scheme the increased investment in My Aged Care infrastructure and additional aged care places, it is disappointed there wasn’t any new or additional funding for dementia to support the 413,106 people currently living with the condition or the 1.2 million people  involved in its care.

The Dementia and Aged Care Services fund, which supports the exploration of innovative new service models, is expected to be decreased from $91.39 million in 2016-17 to $76.14 million in 2017-18.

Alzheimer’s Australia CEO Maree McCabe says although this is offset to some degree by a focus on preventive health and other research investment, it may not be enough to ameliorate the impact of dementia in the longer term.

The recent NATSEM report commissioned by Alzheimer’s Australia, The Economic Cost of Dementia in Australia 2016-2056, found that if nothing is done to reduce the incidence of dementia, the cost will blow out to more than $18 billion by 2025. 

“We remain optimistic that we can continue to work closely with the Federal Government to ensure the quality of life of all people impacted by dementia is improved through a range of health, disability and aged care measures,” says Ms McCabe

Despite Meals on Wheels requesting an additional $5 million in this year's budget, Sharyn Broer, Secretary of AMOWA and Chief Executive Officer Meals on Wheels SA says the budget papers provided no indication of additional funding for Meals on Wheels. 

“Funding for the Commonwealth Home Support Program will be extended for an additional two years, until June 2020,” she notes. 

“Meals on Wheels providers seek assurance that negotiation of the next two-year agreement will provide an opportunity to address the underlying funding inequity which sees consumers paying 300 percent more than the level of government funding, on average, rather than the 10-15 percent recommended in the CHSP Fee Guidelines." 

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