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Fairer deal for older New Zealanders from 1 July

29 June 2006

Fairer deal for older New Zealanders from 1 July

Ruth Dyson, Minister for Senior Citizens announced a range of initiatives from the Labour-led government to benefit older New Zealanders in her speech to Age Concern Tauranga today.

“From 1 July, around 2000 superannuitants with a spouse or partner in long-term residential care will be eligible to be paid the single, living alone rate of New Zealand Super,” says Minister for Senior Citizens, Ruth Dyson.

“This is an increase of $59 a week – or over $3000 a year - for a superannuitant living alone, or $39.36 per week – or over $2000 a year - for a superannuitant sharing with another person. This change reverses a discriminatory situation that has existed since 1993.

“With rising property values, rates can be a burden on households with fixed incomes. So from July 1 of this year, we are increasing the maximum annual rebate from $200 to $500 and widening the eligibility for assistance.

“As a result, a couple living on NZ Superannuation ($25,276 a year) will now be eligible for a rebate of $234 if the rates bill for their home is $1500. An estimated 300,000 people annually are expected to benefit with the 4,000 who claimed a rebate in 2004/5.

“The next stage in the phase out of income and asset testing for people in aged residential care comes into effect on 1 July. Single people and couples with both partners in care will be able to keep up to $160,000 - up from $150,000 currently - in assets before they are used to contribute to the cost of their care.

“Also from 1 July this year, the removal of the ‘sharing expenses rule’ takes effect. And we are extending the period of time a person can continue to receive superannuation while they are working voluntarily for an aid agency overseas, from one to three years.

“The Labour-led government is committed to strengthening New Zealand families, young and old, so that all New Zealanders are able to maintain active, fulfilling lives, and participate fully in our communities. We want all New Zealanders to have the support they need to be secure,” Ms Dyson said.

July 1 changes for older New Zealanders

Single, living alone rate of New Zealand Super
Around 2,000 superannuitants with a spouse or partner in long-term residential care will be eligible to be paid the single, living alone rate of New Zealand Super. This is an increase of $59 a week for a superannuitant living alone, or $39.36 per week for a superannuitant sharing with another person. This change reverses a discriminatory situation that has existed since 1993.

Living Alone payment
The removal of the ‘sharing expenses rule’ takes effect. In the past, this rule has prevented some single superannuitants from getting the Living Alone payment if their families are helping to pay for some household expenses, such as rates.

Working overseas for aid agencies

The government is extending the period of time a person can continue to receive New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension while they are overseas and working voluntarily for an aid agency, from 52 weeks to three years. Currently there are about 40 older volunteers who are working overseas for aid agencies who would benefit from the extended entitlement period.

Rates rebate

Up to 300,000 low-income New Zealanders will become eligible to have up to $500 deducted from their annual rates bill – an increase from the previous maximum of $200. The Labour-led government is also raising the income threshold for a rebate from $7,400 to $20,000 per year. As a result, a couple living on NZ Superannuation ($25,276 a year) this year will be eligible for a rebate of $234 if the rates bill for their home is $1500. The government's investment will assist around 300,000 people a year compared with the 4000 who claimed a rebate in 2004/5.

Income and asset testing

Continuing the phase out of income and asset testing for people in aged residential care from 1 July - a key election promise from 1999. From 1 July single people and couples with both partners in care will be able to keep up to $160,000 - up from $150,000 currently - in assets before they are used to contribute to the cost of their care. When Labour came into government, the thresholds were just $15,000 for single people and $30,000 for couples. The exemption thresholds will increase by $10,000 each year, progressively removing asset testing.

Home-based support services and age-related residential care

The recent Budget provided for $126 million over the next four years for improving home-based support services and age-related residential care, helping more older New Zealanders remain in their homes for as long as they wish.

ENDS

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