Basmah Qazi

Retirement Income

War on welfare: Seniors groups demand special "grey pay" deal on Newstart

War on welfare: Seniors groups demand special "grey pay" deal on Newstart

Seniors are pleading with the Morrison government to increase the dole payments for mature-aged workers as those who are over-55 have less of a chance to secure another job.

Nationals Senator John ‘Wacka’ Williams backed a “grey pay” plan to boost the $555-a-fortnight allowance on Monday night, saying the dole should be paid on a sliding scale.

Speaking to The New Daily, Williams said those who are older and unemployed deserved to be compensated correctly as the age to receive pension has been increased to 66.

“As you get older, it’s harder to get another job,” he said.

“It might be that you pay over-55s $320 a week and pay younger workers less. The taxpayers of this country don’t owe you a living. But by stepping it, you’re also helping the budget.”

But welfare groups have advised against it, saying that rent, food and utilities cost those on a low salary the same regardless of age.

Over-55s are now the largest single age cohort on Newstart, with many mature-aged workers unemployed.

This means that they rely on Newstart for longer.

Ian Henschke, chief advocate for Seniors Australia, said a plan to provide a more generous payment to those in the senior bracket was already in motion.

However, he says it’s unrealistic to expect a 65-year-old to survive on $15,000 a year on Newstart and is then paid $24,000 a year in the aged pension as soon as they turn 66.

If on the dole for nine months, those over the age of 60 are able to receive $600 a fortnight instead of $555.

“It’s a tacit admission it’s tougher for older workers to find another job,” said Mr Henschke.

“We are seeing seniors spend almost four years on Newstart and we are talking about hundreds of thousands of Australians chewing up their savings before they qualify for the aged pension.”

If you are aged between 50 to 59, you are required to complete a total of 15 hours per week of an approved activity for six months each year under Work for the Dole rules, but that initiative now includes volunteering.