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Law change to make NZ Superannuation fairer

Law change to make NZ Superannuation fairer

Helen Clark told a meeting of Grey Power members in Nelson this afternoon that the Labour-led government was introducing legislation which ensures that all superannuitants living alone can be paid the single, living alone rate of New Zealand superannuation.

Helen Clark said that the legislation removes anomalies which have prevented some superannuitants living alone from getting the Living Alone Payment of $19.67 a week.

"Two critical changes are being made to the existing law to ensure that all superannuitants living alone qualify for the payment," Helen Clark said.

1. Married superannuitants with a partner in long-term residential care have not been able to be paid the single living alone rate if their partner was in unsubsidised as opposed to subsidised residential care.

Last year Lianne Dalziel, MP, brought a petition to Parliament on behalf of Barbara White of Richmond, near Nelson, and 1519 others, petitioning for the removal of this discrimination.

"The discrimination had existed since 1993 when the previous National government made changes to residential cares subsidies," Helen Clark said.

"The Social Services Select Committee has recommended that the law be amended so that all married superannuitants with a partner in care can get the higher single superannuation rate of the Living Alone Payment.

"Labour has accepted the select committee's recommendation. We are tabling our response to it in Parliament this week, provision for this change has been made in budget forecasts, and legislation will be introduced to fix the problem.

"This means that from 1 July next year around 2,000 more superannuitants with partners in care will become eligible for the higher rate of single superannuation. The single living alone payment is worth another $19.67 a week which is a significant boost to living standards."

Helen Clark complimented Barbara White on her campaign to make both the government and Parliament aware of the problem and said that the government was very pleased to be resolving the issue.

2. The second change that has been made in the legislation will remove the 'sharing expenses rule' which has prevented some single superannuitants getting the Living Alone Payment.

"The way this rule has applied means, for example, that a superannuitant living alone who has help with her rates from her family would not qualify for the Living Alone Payment.

"When the new legislation comes into effect on 1 July next year all superannuitants living alone, whether or not someone is helping with their household expenses will qualify for the extra $19.67 a week from the Living Alone Payment.

"In the interim the Minister of Social Development has issued a ministerial direction on the sharing expenses rule from last Friday, 1 July, to soften the impact of the current rules, pending their removal in the forthcoming legislation."

Helen Clark said that Labour is committed to ensuring that superannuitants can live in dignity and are able to participate in society.

"These significant changes will benefit those newly eligible for the Living Alone Payment by more than $1000 a year. That certainly will make life easier for that group of older New Zealanders living on their own," Helen Clark said.

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