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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 09 Hansard (Tuesday, 21 August 2018) . . Page.. 3342 ..

The number of older Canberrans is increasing rapidly. Between 2015 and 2055 the number of people aged 65 years and over is projected to almost triple, and the number of people aged 85 years and over is expected to increase almost fivefold. The increasing number of older Canberrans brings many opportunities as well as adding to the social fabric of our city. It also brings with it a responsibility to ensure that the rights of older Canberrans are protected.

There is increasing awareness across Australia and internationally of the need to take action to prevent and to respond to elder abuse. The ACT government is committed to tackling this here and cooperatively with other jurisdictions. The 2018-19 budget also includes funding to establish a seniors rights service, based in Legal Aid. This will provide targeted and specialised support for older Canberrans who are experiencing or are vulnerable to elder abuse.

The 2018-19 budget also includes an allocation for an increase in the staffing resources of the office for veterans and seniors. The office, working alongside the Justice and Community Safety Directorate, provides the ACT government’s representation on the Council of Attorneys-General working group on protecting the rights of older Canberrans. This working group is overseeing the national response on the implementation of the recommendations resulting from the Australian Law Reform Commission’s report Elder Abuse—A National Legal Response and is leading the development of a national plan on elder abuse.

The ACT government values the ongoing contribution older Canberrans make to our community and is working to make sure all Canberrans continue to enjoy good quality of life as they age. To realise this commitment the 2018-19 budget includes a number of initiatives to enhance services for older Canberrans and to ease cost of living pressures.

Outside my portfolio areas the hospital in the home program will be expanded so that around 3,000 more Canberrans a year can receive high quality care in their own home. The older persons mental health intensive treatment service will be boosted to provide stronger case management and clinical care to older Canberrans who are discharged from hospital, living in residential aged care or experiencing issues with housing.

To ease cost of living pressures the general rates aged deferral scheme will be expanded by removing the income and unimproved land value thresholds so that more senior Canberrans can defer their annual rates. Additionally, free off-peak travel on public transport for eligible pensioners will be extended for a further 12 months, and the utilities concession is also increased by $50 from 1 July, taking the total payment to $654 a year.

There is a lot in this budget for both veterans and seniors. I look forward to continuing work across government and with the community as the new and enhanced measures I have outlined take shape and as we continue to work towards ensuring veterans and seniors are able to actively participate as valued and respected citizens, appreciated for their contribution to this inclusive, vibrant city.

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