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Budget recognition for older people welcomed

Age Concern New Zealand media release

Budget 2008

Budget recognition for older people welcomed

22 May 2008

"We welcome the recognition of older people in this year's Budget," Ann Martin, chief executive of Age Concern New Zealand says.

"Older people tell us that their major concerns are income, health, housing, safety and being able to participate in their communities. There are some initiatives to improve all of these in the Budget.

Income

Older people will get a small income boost thanks to cuts in the bottom-most tax rates.

"The great majority of older people are low income earners, with incomes only around $14,000 per year so the tax changes will help them."

Per person, superannuitants will get around $11 a week extra from October 1. This will take their after-tax income to between approx. $230 (if part of a couple) and $290 (if they're living alone) a week. Changes to superannuation portability will also mean that more seniors can receive their NZ Super overseas.

"We're pleased to see that there will finally be some relief for people raising unsupported children, for example grandparents raising grandchildren," Ann Martin says. "Their benefits will rise to be the same as foster parents from April next year."

Health

"Older people are especially concerned about health care and waiting lists. We welcome further strengthening of health services. The $2 billion inflation adjustment for DHBs, plus additional quality funding; $160 million over four years to increase elective surgery and decrease waiting lists, $60 million to build a better health workforce, and more money to combat diabetes and obesity are all good moves.

"People who need hearing aids will get an increased subsidy, up to $500, yet sophisticated audiology can cost up to $5000. Hearing aids are good, but what about the equally desperate need for vision aids and teeth care?" Age Concern's Ann Martin asks.

Housing

Older low income earners may be eligible for some of the additional 32,000 retrofits to make their houses healthier and more energy-efficient. Community housing residents in Wellington are also in line for upgrades.

Safety

"Older people are concerned about their personal safety yet some parts of New Zealand still don't have any services to help people facing elder abuse.

Currently older people in Thames-Coromandel, Rotorua, the Far North and Grey District, along with parts of the main centres and rural communities are unsupported.

"The recognition of elder abuse and neglect prevention services as 'essential services' under the Pathway to Partnership is welcome. However, the Catch-22 is that it has to be an existing service before it can be eligible for the increased funding. We think it's urgent that elder abuse and neglect prevention services expand into parts of the country that currently have no cover," Ann Martin says.

"Older people are also concerned about the safety of their small investments, so we welcome improved supervision of financial advisers and institutions. We look forward to seeing registered financial service advisers, and dispute resolution schemes."

Community participation

The already announced free off-peak public transport for SuperGold Card holders will help older people to participate more in communities that have public transport available.

"People are living longer, staying active and contributing to society longer. This Budget will help them in various ways to stay valued participants in their communities," Ann Martin says.

"Our one disappointment is that despite family violence prevention being a priority, gaps in elder abuse and neglect prevention services didn't make the Budget cut."

ENDS

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