Southern Downs seniors left in limbo over pension changes

SENIORS SEEK CLARITY: Thousands of age pensioners could see their entitlements slashed under changes to asset testing from January 1.
SENIORS SEEK CLARITY: Thousands of age pensioners could see their entitlements slashed under changes to asset testing from January 1. diego_cervo

THOUSANDS of Southern Downs pensioners are anxiously awaiting news of how changes to Centrelink payments will affect their livelihood.

Starting next year, more than 300,000 retired Australians will lose some or all of their Age Pension entitlements.

An extra 50,000 Australians will be eligible for full age pension under changes to thresholds on asset testing from January 1.

Under the changes, a couple currently receiving the Age Pension, owns more than $823,000 in assets - including super but excluding the family home - will lose all entitlements.

Age pensioner home-owning couples who own less than $823,000 in assets, but more than $450,000 in assets, can also expect their entitlements to take a hit.

There were almost 5500 full and part-pensioners living on the Southern Downs in June 2014.

Some of the region's residents, however, are still in the dark about how the new thresholds will affect them.

Christine Smith has been a pensioner for almost six years and is waiting.

She said she could be among those to benefit from the changes, as she and her husband may soon be eligible for full pension payments.

"I think it might be for the better because we're not that well off and we should be outside of the bracket that would be cut," she said.

"We only get the part pension at the moment so we thought we might get a little bit more than what we're getting now.

"My understanding is they're taking entitlements from people who are able to look after themselves and instead people who need a bit more are able to access more, so that could possibly help to make it a bit fairer.

"That said, if people are affected by it, they're not really talking about it and we're just waiting to work out just how it will affect us, so for now I'm not very worried."

Warwick resident Ed Diery has also been on a part pension for five years.

He said despite changes to pension payments being on the cards for some time, it was still unclear how they would play out.

"I'm just trying to work out what exactly it means for me," Mr Diery said.

"Think there are people who are quite worried about it but until we know exactly what the changes are can't do much about it.

"I'm not too worried as we could probably manage without it if we had to, but I hope we get a letter from Centrelink soon to tell us exactly how we're affected."

From January 1, the assets test-free thresholds will increase to $250,000 for a single homeowner, $375,000 for a homeowner couple; $450,000 for a single non-homeowner and $575,000 for a non-homeowner couple.

Pensioners will be subject to a new taper rate, meaning they would lose out on $3 for every $1000 above the new assets test-free areas per fortnight.

Those who lose their payment entitlement as a result of the changes will automatically get a Health Care Card.

Retirees concerned about potential changes to their pension payments are urged to call Centrelink on 132300 before the changes come into effect on January 1.

The assets test-free areas will increase to:

  • $250,000 for a single homeowner
  • $375,000 for a homeowner couple
  • $450,000 for a single non-homeowner
  • $575,000 for a non-homeowner couple

Pensioners will be subject to a new taper rate of $3 for every $1000 above the new assets test-free areas.

The pension will be cut by $3 a fortnight for every $1000 of assets beyond the new thresholds.

Topics:  age pension centrelink general-seniors-news pensioners seniors southern downs superannuation warwick

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