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Age Pension increase welcome, but there's more to be done

Around 2.6 million Age Pensioners are benefiting from an increase to their fortnightly payments after indexation took effect on March 20.

The fortnightly base rate for the Age Pension increased to $12.60 for couples (to $1,436.20) and $8.40 for singles (to $952.70).

These rates include Pension Supplement and Energy Supplement, which are payable to all pensioners in Australia.

In addition to Age Pensioners, some 750,000 people on the Disability Support Pension and 295,000 Carer Payment recipients will benefit from the increase.

Minister for Families and Social Services, Anne Ruston, said the increases will help recipients, like pensioners, to keep up with changes in living costs.

“Indexation is one of the regular mechanisms we have built into our social security safety net to make sure rates reflect the prices payment recipients see at the supermarket and at the bowser,” Minister Ruston said.

The increase comes as the final $250 stimulus payment began to drop into bank accounts in March as part of the Federal Government’s Economic Support Program in response to the pandemic.

“For pensioners alone, those four payments over the last 12 months total $7 billion,” Minister Ruston said. “Between these Economic Support Payments and the latest indexation, we are delivering more support to Australians who need it most.” 

The Age Pension is adjusted to keep up with inflation and usually increases every six months on March 20 and September 20. 

However, the previous indexation in September 2020 passed without an increase to the Age Pension, and there were fears that the March 2021 opportunity would pass without an increase yet again.

In this sense, there has been an element of relief. However, while the stimulus payments and pension increases have been, and will be, welcome news, seniors advocacy group National Seniors says that more still needs to be done – particularly for renters.

“More than a quarter of a million pensioners don’t own their own home,” writes National Seniors in its Fix Pension Poverty campaign web page. “On average a pensioner receives only a third of what is needed to pay the rent.” 

“Single older women are also more likely to be living in poverty. They often have less savings and superannuation because they were out of the paid workforce looking after children and family.”