While the Marshall Liberal Government’s State Budget for 2018-19 shows a strong focus on health, and even aged care in regional areas, COTA SA are concerned at the lack of urgency in solving the problem of older unemployment and housing for older people at risk of homelessness.
COTA SA Chief Executive Jane Mussared says the investment in health services in rural and regional SA, including in Kingston and Strathalbyn; the $16 million investment over four years for 24/7 community-based palliative care; and the injection of $400,000 over four years to broaden the reach of COTA SA’s ‘Strength for Life’ program delivered “good news” for older people across the State.
“We also welcome the previously announced $2.6 million Budget allocation over four years to implement adult safeguarding legislation and services, prompted in part by the brave Oakden families who turned a tragic set of circumstances into advocacy for better protection for vulnerable older people,” Ms Mussared says.
South Australian Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade says the Budget is acting to restore South Australians’ confidence in the public health system with a raft of positive initiatives announced.
“The commitments will deliver the better health services that were a core promise of the Marshall Liberal Team,” he says.
“The State Government is investing in hospitals, frontline clinical staff and health services right across the State to enhance the wellbeing of South Australians.”
Despite being pleased to see the support in these important areas, Ms Mussared says she remains “deeply concerned” about the lack of Budget measures that make ageing well a reality, particularly housing and employment.
“With 44 percent of South Australians predicted to be aged 50-plus by 2050, supporting their wellbeing is, quite honestly, a no-brainer, and makes good economic sense for the State Government,” she says.
“Research has indicated that as many as 6,000 people aged over 65 across the State are currently experiencing significant housing stress and are at real risk of homelessness.
“While we acknowledge the promise of a Housing and Homelessness Strategy, there’s nothing in place to immediately deal with the housing crisis.
“The numbers experiencing housing stress is expected to increase quickly as our population aged and the supply of affordable, safe and secure accommodation diminishes, putting many older people at significant risk of homelessness.”
Ms Mussared adds that housing stress is also linked to employment of older people.
“It is deeply concerning that this was omitted from the Budget,” she explains.
“The fact that only one third of people aged over 55 participate in the workforce and unemployed older job seekers take twice as long as other age groups to find work.
“In most cases, people want and in fact need to work well into their older years.
“Without job security, there’s a tragic knock-on effect for people as they age.
“The State Government has a role to play in raising awareness of the prevalence and cost of age discrimination among employers and as such, there needs to be initial funds to bring employer groups and older workers together to explore the barriers to employment and propose practical solutions.
“As a community we have the opportunity to turn what is often seen as a challenge into gold if we can support older people to be housed and employed.
“It is a modest ask that will address the real risk of homelessness and poverty for a growing number of older people.”
The full State Budget 2018-19 is available to view online, with COTA SA promising to provide further comment on the Budget allocations over the coming days.