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Urgent concessions reform needed

MEDIA RELEASE: New SACOSS report 'The State of Concessions in South Australia' identifies serious problems in the system of concessions which support low income South Australians.

The report examines utilities, transport, health and cost of living concessions and argues that the system is poorly designed, with gaps, poverty premiums and arbitrary requirements and barriers to access.

SACOSS CEO, Ross Womersley said: “Concessions are extremely important, and can make a huge difference in people’s lives when they are struggling financially, or trying to get by on very little. They help those people in our community who are facing some of the most difficult circumstances to be able to cover the basics of everyday life – rent, bills, and other living expenses. We know that too many South Australians are currently having to make unacceptable choices about what they can afford, and what to make do without. The changes we are calling for will make big differences in the lives of people needing support, and those who might otherwise currently be overlooked.”

“Our report examines 13 different state government concessions and identifies instances where those on lower incomes are receiving less support than those on higher incomes, or are even locked out entirely by poorly targeted, or poorly designed, eligibility criteria.” - Ross Womersley

“Meeting daily living expenses is tough when you are on a very low income. This is an issue that affects people young and old – it doesn’t discriminate. So just as it makes sense to have concessions available for age pensioners, it also makes sense to extend these concessions to other people when they are living on very low incomes. Particularly where this is even lower than the pension – as is the case with JobSeeker and the Parenting Payment. We can and should extend a helping hand to pensioners and these other low-income groups.”

“When looking at our concessions system we also found that most concessions are not extended to people living on low incomes who are not receiving support from Centrelink – those in waged poverty whose main source of income is wages, but is still below the poverty line. To ensure concessions are available for this low-income group, SACOSS is calling for an additional generic eligibility criteria for all concessions based on the income thresholds for the Commonwealth Low Income Health Care Card.”

“Concessions are meant to provide vital support for people living on very low incomes. If we want a robust and responsive concession system, we must ensure that we do not leave any low-income groups behind. The bottom line is - you should be able to get concessions if you need them,” he stated.

The SACOSS report makes 3 overall recommendations:

  • The state government initiate a broad review of the concession system as a whole to ensure consistency, proper targeting and ease of access across the system.
  • Extend all concessions available to age pension recipients to other Centrelink recipients receiving lower payments.
  • Implement an additional low-income eligibility criteria for all concessions, which is not based on receipt of Centrelink benefits.

The report also makes 10 recommendations for reform of specific concessions (recommendations tables can be found in the policy brief, and the report in full, on our Concessions page).

Issued  9 October 2021