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Older people’s needs recognised in budget

19 May 2005

Hon Ruth Dyson - Minister for Senior Citizens

Older people’s needs recognised in budget

Older people have benefited greatly from a range of initiatives in this year’s budget, says Senior Citizens Minister Ruth Dyson.

Included in the initiatives:

- Up to 300,000 low income and older New Zealanders will be eligible to have up to $500 deducted from their annual rates bill under the new rates rebate threshold. $50 million a year is being budgeted to implement this policy.

- An additional $3 million over the next four years will bolster programmes to prevent elder abuse and neglect. Responsibility for funding these programmes is being transferred from the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services to the Ministry of Social Development.

- The quality of life for up to 7500 older New Zealanders will improve dramatically following an injection of $17.16 million over the next three years to fund more cataracts operations.

- An additional $1.4 million is being invested over the next four years to increase the funding baseline of New Zealand’s Retirement Commissioner. The increased funding will allow the Retirement Commissioner to continue to provide education programmes to improve the personal financial knowledge of New Zealanders so that they are making well informed decisions about their future financial security.

- District Health Boards will receive a funding boost of around $71 million to address movements in inflation and population growth and to ensure they are fully funded for the services, both residential and home based, that they already provide for older people.

- From 1 July 2006, an allocation of more than $6 million per year will extend eligibility to the higher Single Rate of New Zealand Superannuation to all married superannuitants with a partner in long-term residential care. The funding will also extend eligibility for the Living Alone Payment to married superannuitants, so long as they meet other criteria. This initiative will result in approximately 2000 superannuitants becoming entitled to the higher Single Rate of NZ Super and, if they qualify, a Living Alone Payment. The partner in long-term residential care will continue to receive the married rate of NZ Super.

- Thousands of Government Superannuation Fund recipients will have their incomes lifted as a result of proposed amendments to the GSF scheme. $10.2 million is being allocated over three years for this initiative.

- $258,000 has been allocated from within existing baselines over the next two years to fund the development of a code of practice for home equity release schemes in order to better protect older people’s financial interests.

- More than $690,000 over four years is being allocated to increase pay rates for people who deliver home help under the Ministry of Social Development’s Home Help Programme. Under this programme, financial assistance is provided to nearly 6,000 clients annually to purchase temporary part-time assistance to complete tasks around the home.

Ruth Dyson said these initiatives are the latest in a raft of policies to support older New Zealanders that the government has progressively implemented from its first year in office.

"We have lifted NZ Super levels and set up the NZ Super Fund. We are phasing out asset testing on older people in care from 1 July. We have greatly reduced doctors’ fees for superannuitants. And we have passed comprehensive legislation protecting the interests of older people in retirement villages," she said.

ENDS

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