Media Release 1 October 2017
Housing costs force age pensioners into poverty
Queensland couples who rely on the age pension and rent in the private market are at the greatest risk of living in poverty compared to other seniors, according to the Queensland Council of Social Service's (QCOSS) latest Cost of Living Report.
QCOSS’ fifth Cost of Living Report – Special Edition: The cost of living and age pensioner households was released today to draw attention to the issues being faced by pensions as part of International Day of the Older Person.
QCOSS and COTA are calling on all levels of government to address the dire situation of our age pensioners by addressing access to affordable housing and reforming concessions to make sure they are doing their job.
“If you don’t own your home and are on the age pension you will be at risk of living below the poverty line,” said QCOSS CEO Mr Mark Henley. “Our pensioners cost of living report has shown consistently, since we started it five years ago, that age pensioners renting are at high risk of being unable to afford a basic standard of living.
The report, which is supported with real life stories from COTA members, shows only marginal changes for households and room for improvement in the standard of living of all age pensions in Queensland.
“Couples represented by one of our example household, of two pensioners renting privately, are being forced to make tough decisions every day as to whether to pay their electricity bill, buy medication or put decent food on the table,” said COTA CEO Mr Mark Tucker-Evans.
Mr Tucker-Evans said with the number of Queenslanders aged 65 to 84 is expected to more than double by 2050, it is highly likely the number of people on the age pension will also increase and place additional pressure on the state’s social services and other related support services.
While cost of living pressures have eased somewhat it is important to remember that these figures are based on a very austere standard of living, with little room to cope with any unexpected costs or crises, leaving Queensland’s age pensioners living on the edge.
“One of our members summed up how living under this cost-of-living pressure felt, ‘It’s overwhelming stressful – how much do I have? How long will I live?’ and that is not pressure we want anyone to have to live with,” Mr Tucker-Evans explained.
According to the latest Cost of Living Report, age pensioner couples renting privately in Brisbane earn, on average, nearly $32 per week less than what is needed to afford a basic standard of living and are most likely to be experiencing housing stress, which means they spend more than a third of their income on housing costs.
“Despite some positive changes, such as the slow-down in the increasing cost of essential items such as public transport, electricity, water and sewerage and rents when compared to the last five years, the situation still remains bleak for many of Queensland’s seniors relying on the age pension,” Mr Henley said.
“It is clear that state and federal governments play a critical role in supporting age pensioners to meet a basic standard of living,” he said.
For more than 50 years QCOSS has been a leading force for social change to eliminate poverty and disadvantage. With members throughout Queensland, QCOSS supports a strong community service sector.