As inflation continues its upward spiral, many older people are finding themselves falling through the cracks of income support.
So while age pensioners will receive a much needed boost to their fortnightly income support payments from September 20, few are seeing it as a windfall, claiming the pension increase will barely help them keep their heads above water - especially as it reflects cost of living increases they have already been paying over the past six months.
Peak advocacy group National Seniors Australia believes more needs to be done to help those hit particularly hard by cost-of-living pressures.
"Under the current system pensioners are still behind, especially when inflation is unusually high," said NSA chief advocate Ian Henschke.
Recent National Seniors research showed 39 per cent of older renters were experiencing severe cost-of-living impacts compared to only 11 per cent of older homeowners.
"What we need is additional targeted support for people with limited means and to stop punishing those who need to work."
Mr Henschke reported a case of a pensioner couple paying $920 a fortnight in rent leaving them with $907.40 a fortnight to pay for food, fuel, utilities, and other expenses.
However the situation for single renter pensioners is even worse with some reporting having little left for food, power, transport and medication after paying skyrocketing rents.
John* from regional Queensland told The Senior the rent on his one bedroom unit had gone up from $280 to $310 a week in August - more than double the upcoming increase in rental assistance announced by the government. He said he was surviving on donations from friends and cheap food from Foodbank.
John said he had taken a loan from Centrelink to re-register his car, which, as he lived in a semi-rural area, was a necessity. He was paying the loan back fortnightly, which gave him even less money for essentials. The 70-year-old said could no longer afford internet and was on the cheapest possible plan for his mobile so he could hotspot when necessary.
Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia said the increase to the age pension would provide a much needed boost for older people, but won't remove the significant cost of living pressures many older Australians are currently facing.
Chief Exective Patricia Sparrow said,"Given the increase is always based on retrospective data it means those on the age pension will have to wait another six months to be compensated for the huge cost of living we're currently experiencing.
"There are many vulnerable older people doing it very tough at the moment. Every bit helps,but we need to see systemic changes around housing, health, workforce ageism, and other areas to ensure everyone is getting the support they need."
Joe Montero from action group Fair Go For Pensioners said September increases still left pensioners with an income level below that which aligns with community living standards, driving many into isolation and poor health outcomes.
The single full pension rate will increase by $32.70 to $1096.70 a fortnight and the rate for couples combined will increase by $49.40 to $1653.40. These figures include the pension supplement and energy supplement.
More than 5.5 million Australians including those on the Age Pension, Disability Pension, Carer Payment JobSeeker and Parenting Payment will receive indexed increases.
This increase is in addition to the boost to income support announced in the May budget as part of the $14.6 billion cost of living package, coming in on the same day.
Single veterans on a service pension will receive an additional $32.70, bringing their service pension to $1,096.70 a fortnight, while veterans on the Disability Compensation Payment (Special Rate), known as the Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Payment will receive an additional $53.00 a fortnight, increasing their payment to $1,729.20.
Single JobSeeker Payment recipients will receive a base payment of $749.20 per fortnight, reflecting a $56.10 increase. This is largest nominal increase ever to the main adult unemployment benefit in Australia. Adult ABSTUDY recipients will also receive this boost.
Change to eligibility age
The eligibility age for the existing higher rate of JobSeeker Payment has been dropped from 60 to 55 years for those who are on the payment for nine or more continuous months. Around 52,000 recipients aged 55-59 will receive an increase of $92.10 per fortnight.
Parenting Payment Single recipients will receive a base payment rate of $942.40, reflecting a $20.30 increase. For those single parents transferring to this payment as a result of the Government's change in the Budget to extend eligibility until their youngest child turns 14 (up from aged eight), they will receive an extra $227.50 per fortnight compared to their current rate, including supplements.
Those on a partnered rate of JobSeeker and Parenting Payment will receive a base payment rate of $686.00, reflecting a $54.80 increase.
Income support recipients who are renting will also receive an increase to the maximum rates of Commonwealth Rent Assistance, as a result of both the Government's 15 per cent increase in the Budget and regular indexation. For single recipients without children, the maximum rate will increase by $27.60 to $184.80 per fortnight. For family payment recipients who have one or two children, the maximum rate will increase by $32.34 to $217.28 per fortnight.
Income limits for Commonwealth Seniors Health Card recipients will also be indexed, increasing by $5,400 to $95,400 per annum for singles and by $8,640 to $152,640 per annum for couples combined.
As a result of payment rates being indexed, income and assets limits will increase.
The age pension will cut out completely when income exceeds (single resident) $2397.40 up from $2332, (couple combined resident) $3666.80 up from $3568.
The assets disqualifying limits also increases: single homeowner up $11,000 to $667,500, single non home owner up $11,000 to $909,500. Couple homeowner up $16,500 to $1,003,000, couple non home owner up $16,500 to $1,245,000.
Other supplementary payments including Telephone Allowance and Utilities Allowance are also being indexed.
Social Services minister Amanda Rishworth, said the government recognised Australians are continuing to grapple with increasing cost of living pressures.
"Indexation is a vital mechanism to safeguard the purchasing power of social security payments, ensuring they keep pace with the cost of living," she said.
"Higher inflation is being felt most within the homes of those on low fixed incomes and these payments are a lifeline for many Australians who are doing it tough or may need some extra support."
Veterans' Affairs minister Matt Keogh said the Australian community expected that veterans and their families would be looked after following service.
"Not only will the indexation of these payments help veteran families with the cost of living, certain fortnightly education allowances will also increase, ensuring veteran families are better supported," he said.
More details regarding September 2023 indexation is available on the Department of Social Services website.
More details regarding the cost of living package announced at the 2023-24 Budget is available on the Department of Social Services website.
*John requested his last name not be used.