Australian pensioners on poverty line

POVERTY LINE: Armidale pensioners Garry Carson, Colin Cox and Frank Zielinski discussing the Age Pension.

POVERTY LINE: Armidale pensioners Garry Carson, Colin Cox and Frank Zielinski discussing the Age Pension.

SHOCKING new statistics reveal Australian pensioners are barely scraping by, with many living below the poverty line in Armidale.

The report, released this month by the Benevolent Society, suggests of the 1.5 million Australians who live solely on the Age Pension, almost one-third of them are living in poverty. 

Chief Executive Officer of the Benevolent Society, Jo Toohey said it’s unacceptable that a wealthy country like Australia has so many vulnerable citizens exposed to negative health and social impacts that are associated with poverty. 

“It is unacceptable that people who have contributed to society all their lives are forced to live at or below the poverty line,” Ms Toohey said.

In a typical fortnight, an Armidale pensioner can expect to receive a maximum of $794.80 with an additional $14.10 to cover energy costs.

With the rate for the poverty line around $850 the money is simply not enough, according to local pensioner Colin Cox.

“The cost of heating and electricity is a lot living in Armidale,” Mr Cox said.

Armidale pensioner Garry Carson said while the money is not enough, there is probably not much that can be done.

“It’s probably not [enough] but in all fairness, where is the government going to get more [money] from?” Mr Carson said.

One possible solution might involve better budgeting services, according to pensioner Coral Bell.

“I think a lot of people are probably struggling but also a lot of people don’t utilise their money properly.

“I think if they’re careful you can manage.

“Personally I’m very comfortable… but there are people that live from pension to pension in Armidale.

“I also think the pension definitely should rise, you get about $2 or $3 extra every year but the cost of everything else goes up as well so it’s not really matching… it should go up $20 or $30,” Ms Bell said.

The report has recommended the establishment of an independent Age Pension Tribunal to oversee and determine a just base rate for the pension that enables disadvantaged older Australians to live at a standard consistent with the reasonable expectation of all Australians.

Lead author of the report, Per Capita’s David Hetherington said an independent tribunal to address the issue will help define an adequate Age Pension.

“The Age Pension Tribunal would be similar to Fair Work Australia for the minimum wage or the Remuneration Tribunal which determines the remuneration of key commonwealth offices, including politicians... why should there not be one for older Australians?” Mr Hetherington said.

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