The South Australian Council of Social Service today called on the state government to fund concession reform in the next state budget. Transport, health, utilities and cost of living concessions are the most direct way the state government provides financial support to low-income households, but the concessions system is fundamentally broken and people are missing out on the support they need to cover basic living costs.
Recent SACOSS research shows that the concessions system does not do the basics of providing those on the lowest incomes with the most significant support. Instead, among other problems:
- Someone on a Seniors Health Card with substantial assets, an income well above the average wage and low energy costs can receive concessions which are not available to a minimum wage worker on half the income;
- A single age-pensioner receives more concessions than someone on JobSeeker, despite the age pensioner having a higher income;
- A single parent raising two children on the minimum wage may receive no concession support from the state government.
The State government is beginning a review of the concessions system, but urgent action is needed for people in the depths of the cost of living crisis. Accordingly, SACOSS’ Budget Submission calls for immediate reforms of the concessions system, including:
- An increase of the Cost of Living Concession for renters to the level paid to homeowners
- A substantial increase in the energy concession to maintain its real value in the face of rising prices, and a shift to a percentage-based system to better target the expenditure
- An extension of existing pensioner private motoring and ambulance concessions to all people on very low incomes.
SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley said,
“We know that the state government is beginning a review of concessions, but unless there is funding to fix the problems the review won’t change much. The system will continue to be unfair and people will continue to fall through the gaps.”
“Our estimates of the cost of reform suggest significant new investment will be required to fix the concession system, but our broader analysis shows that we need a bold budget to turn around an under-performing economy and to support low-income households struggling with the current cost of living crisis. A business as usual approach won’t cut it.”
“There is some hope in sight. The federal governments’ Energy Bill Relief Plan (with matching state funding), will provide a one-off boost for energy affordability this year, but unless it is targeted properly a lot of money will be wasted. Some of that money needs to go to reforming the state energy concessions so they are fairer and better targeted in the long term, while transport and health concessions also urgently need to be fixed.”
A Briefing Note on the problems in the concessions system can be found here:
The SACOSS Submission to the 2023-24 State Budget is available here