Page 2990 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 6 August 2008
important issue facing ageing people is income security. In the last couple of days we have seen research that shows that a large number of the nearly six million people who will retire in the next 15 years do not have a clear idea of what their income will be after they retire and cannot say where they will find their health care and how they will pay for their health care.
This is an emerging problem. It is probably the highest on the list of priorities of people in aged persons organisations. In recent discussions that the Leader of the Opposition and I had with COTA, this was the highest priority issue—income security, especially income security for single pensioners. This is not something that we can directly have an impact on in the ACT, but we should be using the policy mechanisms that we have to assist people, especially those on low incomes, to make their retirement as pleasant and as productive as possible. We should also be using the relationships we have with the federal government to draw to their attention the needs of those of our constituents who are single pensioners, who do suffer on low incomes.
The next important issue is housing. With all of these things, people are worried about their income and they are worried about the security of their housing. Social inclusion is the icing on the cake that they will never obtain, because you cannot obtain social inclusion if you do not have some disposable income to get out and about. It makes it very hard to obtain social inclusion if you do not have income to get out and about. And you are not going to feel like getting out and about and engaging with the community if you are depressed, worried or anxious about your income and the security of your housing.
I was quite concerned to hear from the Council on the Ageing that they believe that five per cent of all people in the ACT who are at retirement age do not have housing security. They are in the private rental market and the cost of their housing is going up faster than they can cope with it. They are facing the possibility that they will lose the dwelling that they currently rent, as landlords try to put up the rent in a rising housing market. And there are significant issues with people who have too many assets to qualify for government housing but not enough assets to purchase their own house. This is a significant policy issue. Unless we address this issue, we will not be addressing the social inclusion of these people.
Other issues that are of importance to the Council on the Ageing are health services, particularly dental services, and the changes to the commonwealth arrangements in relation to chronic disease programs. The changes in the dental health program for people suffering from chronic diseases will have a huge impact on people in retirement age. Most of the commonwealth dental program has been subsumed into a teenage dental health program, which is fine on its merits but it means that there will be an increasing number of people amongst our retired population who will not have the same access to dental services that they had previously—who will have imperfect access. I know that at the moment there are arrangements in place and discussions between the commonwealth and the states and territories about commonwealth contributions to the dental schemes, but I am concerned on behalf of constituents who find it very difficult to pay for dental services. Once you do not have good teeth, your nutrition goes off, your general health goes off and it is a huge problem.