Scheme splits, but fewer low-income Territorians will be eligible
The new “bigger and fairer” NT Concession Scheme beginning on 30 June 2018 has moved in a positive direction by clearly separating cost of living related concessions away from the Seniors Recognition Scheme, as well as placing a cap on electricity and water concessions.
But fewer low-income and disadvantaged Territorians will be eligible for help with the cost of living.
It is appropriate that low-income households where people are in receipt of an Age Pension, Carer Payment, Disability Support Pension or Parenting Payment Single are eligible for the Scheme, starting Sunday 1 July.
Of particular concern, however, is that the Scheme will exclude a large number of other households also on low incomes (if they were not already on the Scheme prior to 8 November 2017).
Exclusions include households in receipt of a Low Income Health Care Card, or where someone only has a partial capacity to work (and who receives a Pensioner Concession Card as a result of this), as well as people who receive the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card – regardless of their income level.
In addition, those in receipt of a Carer Allowance will no longer be eligible for the Scheme (unless they also receive one of these eligible income support payments – Age Pension, Carer Payment, Disability Support Pension or Parenting Payment Single), even though some of these people will be on low incomes.
NTCOSS believes it is inequitable that people in these scenarios, and not already on the previous NTPCCS prior to 8 November 2017, are ineligible for the new NT Concession Scheme.
The rationale of the Northern Territory Government for excluding these low-income groups is unclear.
NTCOSS believes there should be a means test implemented for those on Carer Allowance and Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, and that those on a Low-Income Health Care Card or Pensioner Concession Card – now excluded – be reinstated.
These exclusions will increase cost of living pressures and will be felt strongly by people on low incomes Territorians in receipt of a Carer Allowance; low-income single people, earning under $546 per week (which is well under the minimum wage).
In addition, NTCOSS reiterates its call to extend electricity concessions to recipients of Newstart ($273 per week) and Youth Allowance ($226 per week) to help ease their significant cost of living pressures.
The Northern Territory remains the only jurisdiction in Australia that does not pass on its electricity concession to Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients.
The restructure of the NT schemes to separate cost of living concessions from incentives for Seniors is positive reform which provides clarity between payments that have different goals.
But eligibility criteria for the new NT Concession Scheme must undergo further reform to ensure cost of living assistance is targeted to Territorians most in need.
For further information/media comment: Wendy Morton – NTCOSS Executive Director 0418 482 660
Read the NTCOSS Concessions Fact Sheet