Older Australians Line 132 300 Age Pension, deeming, income and assets tests, Financial Information Service, Pension Bonus Scheme, Pension Loans Scheme and Commonwealth Seniors Health Card.
International Services 131 673 Pensions paid outside Australia, claiming pensions from other countries, pensions paid under International Agreements.
Call131 202 for information about Centrelink services and products in languages other than English.
Disabilities andCarers Line132 717.
If you are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment, you can contact us through our TTY service on FreecallTM 1800 810 586. To provide compliments, suggestions or complaints, please call our TTY Customer Relations Line on FreecallTM 1800 000 567. A TTY phone is required to use this service.
Customer Relations UnitFreecall™ 1800 050 004
Comment, complain or provide compliments about our customer service.
Department of Veterans’ Affairs(DVA) customers should call 133 254, or from regional Australia call Freecall™ 1800 555 254.
Aged care information For information on aged care
Freecall™ 1800 200 422.
Calls from your home phone to our ‘13’ numbers from anywhere in Australia are charged at a fixed rate. That rate may vary from the price of a local call and may also vary between telephone service providers. Calls to ‘1800’ numbers from your home phone are free. Calls from public and mobile phones may be timed and charged at a higher rate.
Department of Human Services: humanservices.gov.au
Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs: fahcsia.gov.au
Department of Veterans’ Affairs: dva.gov.au
Department of Health and Ageing: health.gov.au
Aged Care Australia: agedcareaustralia.gov.au
Receiving News for Seniors
Other versions available
If you would like to:
• receive a copy of News for Seniors
• change your address
• cancel your copy of News for Seniors, or
• discuss distribution problems
call the Older Australians Line on 132 300.
Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) customers who wish to make the above changes please call 133 254 or from regional Australia call Freecall™ 1800 555 254.
News for Seniors is published in 16 community languages.
If you would like to receive News for Seniors in a language other than English, call 131 202.
If you have a vision impairment and would prefer to receive an audio version of News for Seniors please call 132 300.
To view English and non-English versions or listen to the audio version visit humanservices.gov.au and search under ‘Publications’.
When contacting any Department of Human Services telephone number please have your Customer Reference Number (CRN) and/or your concession cards handy for easy reference.
DISCLAIMER The Australian Government has attempted to ensure the information in this publication is accurate. However, the Government does not warrant that the information is accurate or complete nor will it be liable for any loss suffered by any person because they rely in any way on it. You should contact your local Department of Human Services office or Department of Veterans’ Affairs state office for full details of any entitlements and services to which you may be eligible, or how any pending changes in legislation, programs or services may affect you.
Work towards a National Disability Insurance Scheme 10
Excuse me sir: are you missing having a yarn with the boys? 11
Working the wood at Queanbeyan 12
THE GOOD NEWS
At 95—Senior Australian of the year 13
Help with problem gambling 15
Commonwealth Seniors Health Card—claim online 16
Pension opportunities: Slovak Republic 16
Helping you quit—subsidised nicotine patches 17
Clean energy advance on its way 18
Mytime reaches out to grandparents 21
Organisation nominees can now access services online 21
ADVICE AND UPDATES
The Department of Human Services may call you to discuss your investments 22
Speaking up about aged care 23
Private Health Insurance changes 24
How to avoid those scams 25
New carers resource 27
Listen up: help on hearing 29
RATES and THRESHOLDS
Pension and Rent Assistance Rates and Thresholds 30
Pension Bonus Scheme Maximum Rates 30
Pension Reform Transitional
Arrangements Rates and Thresholds 31
IN THIS ISSSUE
Anne Wilson-Vlotman is one of the hundreds of book enthusiasts who join in the University of the Third Age book groups around Australia. Read about Anne’s group—and what the University of the Third Age has to offer older Australians on pages 8 and 9.
News for Seniors advertising enquiries
The Department of Human Services and the Commonwealth of Australia do not endorse and are not responsible for the views, products or services offered or provided by advertisers.
News for Seniors editorial enquiries
Mail: Editor, News for Seniors,
PO Box 7788,
Canberra BC, ACT 2610
News for Seniors incorporates information for service pensioners, war widows and widowers.
From the Editor
Hello and welcome to News for Seniors Issue 87, the first for 2012.
We are often invited to appear on radio programs to explain the benefits, payments and support that the government offers to older Australians.
What strikes me about these conversations with the people who call in is that one of the problems we face is isolation. Too many older Australians appear to be isolated from society. Too many are isolated from the help or advice they might need to cope with the problems of growing old.
For that reason, in this issue we wanted to focus on the idea of staying connected. In short, helping you to stay connected to the world around you. Hopefully we can open a few windows on the ways you can stay connected—not just to all those support services, but to family, music, education, hobbies, recreation and much more.
It’s a bit too simple to say that staying connected is just about the mechanics of the technology. Using the internet, for example, will certainly help you open up new connections, but that’s only part of it. This issue tells the stories of organisations like the University of the Third Age, The Men’s Sheds and the Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association. They all connect older Australians face-to-face, person-to-person.
Call us old-fashioned, but we think that the warmth of that personal interaction and connection is still the best way to build up relationships. At the same time we can all use the technology to make our lives easier by doing business with other people and organisations (including the government) from home—using computer-based and mobile devices.
We hope you will find the articles useful and interesting—and that they will encourage you to stay connected to the world of government services through News for Seniors.
Hank Jongen—Editor News for Seniors.
Mail: PO Box 7788 Canberra BC ACT 2610
Email: email@example.com for feedback on the magazine
Letter to the Editor
Your News for Seniors Issue 86, 2011 is interesting. It is promoting a healthy quality life style for the aged in the community.
In particular, I am quite impressed by the article on ex-actress Noeline Brown.
May I say, I too would like to enjoy life the way she does.
My emphasis during the past 29 years on a pension has been my children.
Dear Concerned Citizen,
I’m pleased that you enjoyed the ‘Retire from Work but not Life’ article. The article received a big response from readers. We appear to have struck a responsive chord with our message about the need to continue to be active and enjoy life, particularly with the family—regardless of our financial and health circumstances.
This issue of News for Seniors picks up that active idea with its theme of Staying Connected.
Message from the Minister
The Age Pension is the oldest payment on the Commonwealth Government books. Since 1908, it has symbolised the Commonwealth’s pledge to all its people.
No matter who they are, or where they live, people in our society expect to grow old in dignity and comfort. They want to live well. This is an aspiration that is widely shared.
Our citizens get jobs, they pay their taxes and they raise their families in the faith that their country will support them in turn.
This is the compact that binds us together, generation to generation. It still defines us as a people and a nation.
The first pension recipients took home ten shillings a week—less than a quarter of the sum the courts had ruled necessary to sustain a working man and his family. It was intended to provide the very basics of life for people who had served this country well.
We have come a long way since. Today, Commonwealth support extends well beyond the pension itself, to Medicare, carer benefits and many other services.
There are smart call centres, internet services and iPhone apps. There are entirely different views of what a ‘good life’ should be.
We can only guess what the future holds for our people. But come what may, it is our duty to make good on our promise to every Australian who will grow old in the twenty-first century.
That is the job I took up when I became Minister for Human Services in February.
My role, as I see it, is to keep the ‘human’ in human services—to make sure the professional people we employ can offer the best possible service to the people we serve.
New technologies are part of that. But so are the community centres. So are the mobile offices that get out to regional communities. So are the thousands of people on the Centrelink and Medicare counters. So are Australians like you.
We cannot build the system you want and deserve without your input.
I know there are many challenges for our society in the years ahead. We will need to support more people, and we will need to do it in tough budgetary conditions. That does not mean we need to compromise the compact that has sustained our nation for generations.
We simply have to work together to renew it.
Senator the Hon Kim Carr
Minister for Human Services
Staying connected in the digital age
Staying connected is a challenge for many seniors—connected to the family, to the community and particularly to all those health and social services which can make life a little easier.
New technology is making that connection simpler and, in many cases, cheaper and much easier. It gives us the means to communicate with the world.
Internet access can bring many benefits for seniors, including fostering greater independence. It can help you stay connected with family and friends, share photographs, and research your hobbies and interests.
It allows you to do the banking and the shopping and pay the bills online—all from home.
Our own departmental survey shows that 76 per cent of News for Seniors readers are connected to the internet.
Of Australia’s 10.9 million internet subscribers, the over 65s account for 31 per cent of usage.
In one study, 37 per cent of people aged 55–64 did not use the internet in 2008–09, as well as 69 per cent of people aged 65 or more.
According to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Stephen Conroy, who spoke at the Australian Computer Conference for Seniors last year, many seniors are missing out on the benefits of the digital economy.
There are at least two areas where seniors are not left out, but are more engaged online. They are in online shopping and Facebook:
• online shopping by the over 50s has grown steadily over the past two years. Shoppers aged over 64 have increased their monthly spend from $105 to $135 a month, and
• computer users aged 55 and over are the fastest growing group to sign up to social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. About one in five people over the age of 55 is connecting through Facebook, with 550,000 logging in.
Seniors are embracing the latest technology.
Sandra Brophy—who runs computer education classes for seniors at the Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association in Sydney—says seniors are increasingly more interested in tablets and smart phones rather than home computers.
The tablet personal computer is a small, thin, laptop computer with a touch screen rather than a keyboard. Like the smart phone it’s small and easy to carry and has a big memory and heavy duty computing power.
There are many organisations and community groups that assist seniors by providing computers, software, an internet connection, training and support at low cost—helping older Australians to get online and make the most of what the internet can bring.
The Australian Government, for example, has committed $25 million to the popular Broadband for Seniors inititive since 2008.
Broadband for Seniors provides free access to the internet from around 2,000 kiosk sites at community centres, retirement villages, libraries and community clubs. It has allowed about 200,000 seniors to build their online skills and stay connected.
The results have been extremely positive—60 per cent of people using the kiosks agree that their level of social connectivity has improved.
Another of the government’s priorities in the digital world is to improve health and aged care. The National Broadband Network will deliver high-quality services more effectively and efficiently.
It will be the platform to connect homes, doctors’ surgeries, pharmacies, clinics, aged care facilities and health professionals.
To get started and to get informed in the digital world:
• To find out where your nearest Broadband for Seniors kiosk is located or for more information, call the Broadband for Seniors Helpline on 1300 795 897. If you have internet access email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website necseniors.com.au
• For courses and opportunities to learn more: ascca.org.au or call 02 9286 3871
• For a roundup of the latest developments in technology: abc.net.au/technology
• For an introduction to the internet: seniors.gov.au
In this issue
This issue of News for Seniors includes a range of articles exploring the idea of staying connected. They all carry our Staying Connected identity line.
• New technology: Join the club—Page 8
• ACT women connect books and computers—Page 8
• We’re off to uni—a little later in life—Page 9
• Excuse me sir: are you missing having a yarn with the boys—Page 11
• Working the wood at Queanbeyan—Page 12
• MyTime reaches out to grandparents—Page 21
• How to avoid those scams—Page 25
• New online resources for carers—Page 27
Never too old...
This post on one of the seniors’ discussion sites offers some sound advice on how to think about computers.
Computers are great if you understand how to use them. So at 64 I enrolled in a basic TAFE course, ‘Computers for Beginners’. One semester (18 weeks) 3 hrs one day a week and Centrelink paid me an extra Pensioner Education Supplement every fortnight for going. Now at 65 I am enrolled in ‘Digital Media’ so I can learn how to download and send family photos, make a slide show and set them to music and it’s great fun. I am now able to help other seniors learn the computer to catch up to their Grand Kids. So have a go, contact your local TAFE. We are never too old to learn.
(The Pensioner Education Supplement can help you with the costs of full-time or part-time study. Check the Department of Human Services website humanservices.gov.au for the details on eligibility—and how to apply.)
New technology—join the club
The Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association (ASCCA) is the national peak body for seniors who are interested in using computer technology for lifelong learning and communication.
For seniors, information technology includes not just computers, but also mobile phones, web-cams and many other emerging technologies.
Membership is open to any organisation promoting access to information technology by older people.
ASCCA organises seminars, training sessions for club volunteers, workshops and other activities to help seniors become computer literate at their own pace.
The association helps communities establish computer clubs for seniors and provides better access to information, government services and communications via the Internet.
The ASCCA works with all levels of government on policy issues affecting information communication technology and seniors.
The association has set up their first training room in the CBD of Sydney where seniors can undertake various training courses and workshops, and group sessions can be tailored to meet particular needs. Course fees are priced modestly and bookings are required. The training schedule is available on the ASCCA website or by calling 02 9286 3871.
There are 159 member clubs of the ASCCA located around Australia. They welcome new members. For more information on the location of these clubs, visit ascca.org.au or call 02 9286 3871.
The ASCCA has developed a Cyber Club which was formed to offer support and encourage IT learning through an online interactive website for seniors who are isolated and unable to access a computer club. For more information visit Cyber Club at ascca.org.au
ACT women connect books and computers
Books, computers and lively conversations come together at the University of the Third Age book groups across Australia.
The laptop computer comes in handy for some quick internet research on the author and books as part of the discussion. In Canberra these women are part of a group of 14 which meets each month to analyse, review and discuss a selected book. They are, from left, Ann Wilson-Vlotman, Heather Kirkby, Pat Parker and the convenor of the group, Robyn Teasdale.
We’re off to uni—a little later in life
For more than 60,000 seniors across Australia, the University of the Third Age—or U3A—provides not just intellectual stimulation, but a way to be connected to the world of arts, literature, languages, music and science.
The University provides low cost courses of study for people in active retirement. There are no formal academic requirements for entry, no examinations, and no qualifications to be had at the end of the courses.
The entry qualification is simple—over 50 and not working full-time.
All tutors and other leaders are volunteers.
It’s a great way to share ideas and experience in the classes—or to tutor in a subject that you might be an expert in.
More than 100 U3A campuses are spread across the country, offering many hundreds of courses. The courses all reflect local demand and interests and are delivered in the local area.
In Sydney, for example, U3A members attend over 300 courses in 40 topics held throughout the Sydney metropolitan area and in the city.
In Canberra U3A offers 130 different courses on a wide variety of subjects including arts, languages, literature, science, philosophy, computing and music.
Poetry and music appreciation, language courses (Japanese, German, French and Chinese), and recreational courses like Mah Jong and lawn bowls are on offer.
According to the University we have three ages. Childhood is our first age. The second age is that of career and parental responsibility. What follows becomes our third age—the age of active retirement.
The online courses are becoming more popular. U3A Online is the world-first virtual University of the Third Age, delivering online learning via the internet.
U3A Online appeals to people who are isolated either by permanent or temporary incapacity and those who live too far away from a conventional U3A campus.
There’s more information at u3aonline.org.au The site will also help you find a University of the Third Age near you.
In the words of the U3A members:
“I’ll go as far as to say that being totally absorbed in my recent online course has saved my sanity this year.”
“Nowadays, living alone and physically limited, I was being stupefied by knitting, crochet, patchwork, computer puzzles and occasional bus trips. There is a limit.”
Work towards a National Disability Insurance Scheme
Early last year, the Australian Government asked the Productivity Commission to examine reform of disability support services because the system we have today is not delivering the kind of care and support Australians expect for people with a disability.
The Productivity Commission agreed, finding that the current disability support system is underfunded, unfair, fragmented and inefficient, and that it gives people with a disability little choice or certainty over the care and support they receive.
The Australian Government is working with states and territories to reform disability care and support.
All governments have agreed to lay the foundations for a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) by mid-2013.
The Government wants to ensure that people with a disability will have a clear pathway to access the care and support they need, when they need it, regardless of where they live or how they acquire their disability.
A dedicated agency will lead the detailed design work for the launch of a scheme and will develop the practical plan to deliver this significant reform.
This will be supported with an extra $10 million for projects that examine how to deliver individual, personalised care.
For more information or to register to get updates visit the NDIS website at ndis.gov.au
Excuse me sir: are you missing having a yarn with the boys?
If you took a look inside your local Men’s Shed you could see a number of men learning new hands-on skills in an atmosphere of old-fashioned mateship.
You could also see a few young men working with older men, learning how to restore furniture, fix an old push bike or making a kids cubby house for Camp Quality to raffle.
Others will be just having a yarn and a cuppa.
Men’s Sheds play an important role by providing meeting places for men to stay connected within the community, while helping their physical and mental wellbeing.
Many retired men have had to downsize their living arrangements, often resulting in their personal space, usually the garden shed or work-shop, being lost.
As a consequence, some may be looking to spend time in a constructive environment or simply share time with other men who have similar interests.
Based on the traditional backyard shed, Men’s Sheds provide a relaxed place for men to meet and continue a hobby, learn new skills, or just pop in for a chat and a cuppa.
A major health issue for many men is they don’t take an active interest in their own health and wellbeing. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, men make fewer GP visits than women, only 40 per cent discuss health issues with health professionals, and 16 per cent of men don’t use any medical services at all.
Men’s Sheds can play a significant role in reducing these problems by connecting men with each other and their communities, including health professionals.
Most sheds also undertake community work, so there’s an opportunity for men to be involved in something meaningful and make a positive contribution to the community.
See for yourself...
The Australian Men’s Shed Association administers the Australian Government’s Shed Development Program. It provides direct financial assistance to men’s sheds across Australia.
The government has committed $3 million of the $16.7 million National Male Health Policy to the Association to help support sheds, and $250,000 each year for three years in direct financial assistance for Men’s Sheds around Australia.
Organisations in the community involved with Men’s Sheds can apply for funding to assist with establishing new sheds, purchase tools and work equipment and a range of shed activities and programs.
There are now about 1,000 sheds of various sizes offering men a place to socialise and network as well as share skills and information.
To find a Men’s Shed near you, or for more information, call the Association on 1300 550 009, visit the website mensshed.orgor you can email them at email@example.com
Working the wood at Queanbeyan
Ray Hasler, Brian Lay and David Steptoe work the wood at the Queanbeyan Men’s Shed in NSW.
The three are enthusiastic members of the Men’s Shed which attracts up to 20 men three mornings each week.
They work on a big range of community projects from bird nesting boxes and cubby houses to presentation plaques for local organisations and a range of furniture for children with special needs.
The trio above are working on one of a number of food trolleys destined for one of Queanbeyan’s aged care facilities.
And there’s time for the men to work on their own projects—dog kennels and coffee tables, bird feeders and wooden bowls.
And with all that production, there’s still time for a cuppa and chat which David Steptoe reckons is just as important as the woodwork for Queanbeyan’s most senior citizens.
At 95—Senior Australian of the Year
A great, great grandmother from the Crocodile Islands east of Darwin is the Senior Australian of the Year.
At 95, Indigenous community leader Laurie Baymarrwangga was recognised as the 2012 Senior Australian of the Year in January—accepting an award which recognises those older Australians who continue to achieve and contribute to their communities.
She received the award for her leadership and commitment in caring for the Crocodile Islands biological and cultural environment focusing on kin, culture and country, often in the face of hardship.
Laurie has played a crucial role in protecting her culture and country, passing down local ecological knowledge to different age groups.
She has put together dictionary projects, housing projects, worked on livelihood projects like the Crocodile Islands rangers—and she’s worked to develop bilingual education and help children learn their own language in the context of their own country.
Laurie used her own money to establish the Crocodile Islands Rangers—a volunteer organisation which looks after the land and keeps culture and language strong.
In 2010, after a struggle stretching back to 1945, Laurie received back payments for rents owed to her as the land and sea owner of her father’s estate.
She donated it all, around $400,000, to improve education and employment opportunities on the islands and to establish a 1,000 square kilometre turtle sanctuary on her marine estate.
From the 1940s, Laurie has witnessed generations of change sweep across the island of her birthplace, Murrungga. She has seen the arrival of missionaries, exploitation by Japanese and European fishermen and the outbreak of war. During World War II, she survived the bombing of Millingimbi (the largest of the Crocodile Islands).
The young survivor went on to work tirelessly for the preservation of the culture and the environment of the same islands that were the target of the bombings.
News for Seniors asked Laurie Baymarrwangga what advice she might have for her fellow older Australians on living a positive life and making a contribution to their community.
Laurie emphasised the importance of strong links to family, extended kin and country, and the language of the country. Laurie sees this language as the vehicle for, and repository of, the unique cultural knowledge of our continent and the treasure of our national cultural heritage.
She wants us all to remain courageous and undaunted in our recognition of the value of cultural differences in creating a future and a nation of which we can all be proud.
Help with problem gambling
Problem gamblers across all age groups lose, on average, about $21,000 every year on poker machines—money that isn’t being spent on food and bills.
For many seniors, gambling is a form of entertainment that is enjoyed responsibly.
However, for some, gambling can be highly addictive and destructive—ruining their lives and destroying families.
Up to 500,000 Australians are at risk of becoming, or are, problem gamblers. Three-quarters of problem gamblers play the pokies.
That’s why the Australian Government is introducing long-term reforms to help problem gamblers.
Under the pre-commitment system, for example, players set a limit on how much they want to spend. The trial in the ACT will help determine the best way of making this work.
The Government reforms are based on recommendations from the Productivity Commission—an independent economic advisory body. They include:
• a 12 month trial of mandatory pre-commitment technology in the ACT, commencing in 2013, to test the technology and its effectiveness
• the roll out of pre-commitment technology to every poker machine in Australia
– all new poker machines manufactured from 2013 must be capable of supporting pre-commitment
– all poker machines must be part of a State linked pre-commitment system by 31 December 2016, except eligible small venues which will have longer
• a $250 daily withdrawal limit from ATMs in gaming venues (excluding casinos) by 2013
• electronic warnings and cost of play displays on poker machines
• additional counselling to help problem gamblers, and expanding the reach of Gambling Help Online
• strengthening self-exclusion arrangements
• improving training for staff in venues, and
• introducing measures to tackle gambling online and sports betting.
Only about 15 per cent of problem gamblers seek help. If you or someone you know is affected by problem gambling, help is available at the Gambling Help Online website gamblinghelponline.org.au or by phoning FreecallTM 1800 858 858.
For more information about the changes visit problemgambling.gov.au
Commonwealth Seniors Health Card —claim online
If you are age pension age, but do not qualify for Age Pension, or you do not receive certain other Social Security/Veterans’ Affairs pensions or benefits, you may be eligible for a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card.
The card helps senior Australians with the cost of prescription medicines, other health services and concessional rail travel on Great Southern Rail services. It also entitles cardholders to a quarterly Seniors Supplement payment to assist with regular household expenses.
You may be able to apply for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card online. To do this you need to firstly register for online services—if you have not already done so. You can use online services from home at any time that is convenient for you. An online application may save you time and reduce the amount of paperwork you need to complete.
For more details regarding eligibility, registering for online services and how to submit your online claim for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, visit humanservices.gov.au Search for ‘Commonwealth Seniors Health Card’, or for further information call the Older Australians Line 132 300.
To register for online services visit humanservices.gov.au/register
Pension opportunities: Slovak Republic
The Social Security Agreement between Australia and the Slovak Republic commenced on 1 January 2012.
This means if a person has lived in Australia and the Slovak Republic, they may be able to receive an Australian Age Pension and/or Slovak Old Age, Disability or Survivors’ benefits. The agreement allows people to combine periods of residence in Australia and insurance in the Slovak Republic to help qualify for benefits from both countries.
We provide a free service to help customers fill in forms, photocopy and certify original documents needed for their claim. We will verify periods of residence in Australia and send the claim documents to the Slovak Republic.
For more information, customers should:
• visit humanservices.gov.au and select ‘Centrelink: We speak your language’ to view the Social Security Agreement between Australia and the Slovak Republic factsheet, which is available in English and Slovak
• call the Department of Human Services International Services on 131 673, or
• call 131 202 to speak to someone in a language other than English.
Helping you quit—subsidised nicotine patches
As part of the National Tobacco Action Plan, the Australian Government is providing assistance to concessional patients, by subsidising a 12 week course of approved nicotine patches.
Concessional patients are people with an Australian Government concession card, such as a health care card or a pensioner concession card.
To help Australians quit smoking, since 1 February 2011, the Government has listed a range of nicotine replacement therapy products (patches) on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
According to the Department of Health and Ageing, seniors will experience both short-term and longer term health benefits by quitting smoking.
So, no matter what your age, quitting smoking is one of the best ways you can improve your health and lower the risk of tobacco-related disease.
Your best source of advice on the suitability of nicotine patches as an aid to quit smoking is a GP or authorised nurse practitioner. They would also be able to advise whether or not you meet the PBS listing criteria. These listings will reduce the cost to people who want to quit smoking. If a patient is unsuccessful in quitting using the nicotine patches, they are able to access the other smoking cessation therapies (Bupropion and Verenicline) also available on the PBS, within the same 12 month period.
Remember every cigarette you don’t smoke is doing you good! For information or support, call the Quitline 137 848 or visit their website quitnow.gov.au
For more information on subsidised nicotine patches, call the PBS Information Line FreecallTM 1800 020 613, email PBS@health.gov.au or visit pbs.gov.au
The Government has a comprehensive plan to move to a clean energy future. This includes:
• introducing a carbon price
• promoting innovation and investment in renewable energy
• encouraging energy efficiency and
• creating opportunities in the land sector to cut pollution.
A carbon price is not a tax on households. About 500 of the biggest polluters in Australia will be required to pay for their pollution under the carbon pricing mechanism. All revenue from the carbon price will be used by the Government to:
• assist households with price impacts they face by cutting taxes and increasing payments
• support jobs and competitiveness and build our new clean energy future.
More than half of the revenue raised from the polluters will go to households to help meet price impacts and help them do their bit for climate change.
There are two ways that households will receive assistance:
• increases in pensions, allowances and family payments they may receive and
• income tax cuts on top of these increases.
The Government will ensure that those Australians who need help most, particularly pensioners and low and middle income households, will get assistance for the cost of living impact of the carbon price.
On average, households will see cost increases of $9.90 per week, while average assistance will be $10.10.
The Clean Energy Advance is to help pensioners meet additional costs for the nine months from 1 July 2012 until 19 March 2013. After this date ongoing assistance will be paid through the Clean Energy Supplement which will be provided with regular pension and Seniors Supplement payments.
The Clean Energy Advance for pensioners and Seniors Supplement recipients will be $250 for singles and $190 for each member of a couple.
You do not have to apply for the Clean Energy Advance. Payments will be made to eligible Age Pension and Seniors Supplement recipients automatically.
If you are a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holder who does not receive a Seniors Supplement, in order to get a Clean Energy Advance, you will need to tell the Department of Human Services that you want to receive the Seniors Supplement and provide your bank account details.
The one-off Clean Energy Advance is only available to seniors who receive the Seniors Supplement or the pension. To update your bank details with us, go to Online Services by visiting humanservices.gov.au or call the Older Australians Line on 132 300.
From 20 March 2013, an ongoing Clean Energy Supplement will be paid to eligible pensioners with their regular fortnightly payment and to Seniors Supplement recipients with their quarterly payment. The Clean Energy Supplement will be equivalent to a 1.7 per cent increase in the maximum rate of pension.
The Clean Energy Advance and Clean Energy Supplement aims to assist pensioners manage the impact on their living expenses associated with the introduction of the Clean Energy Future Plan.
For more information on the Household Assistance Package visit our website humanservices.gov.au/cleanenergy
For more information on the Clean Energy Future plan visit cleanenergyfuture.gov.au
As part of the Household Assistance Package under the Clean Energy Future Plan, the Australian Government will provide financial assistance to eligible customers to help offset the expected impact on the cost of living as a result of the Clean Energy Future Plan.
A Clean Energy Advance payment will be made from May 2012 to age pensioners (including part-rate pensioners), and self-funded retirees who hold a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card and receive the Seniors Supplement, providing they meet certain residence requirements.
This lump-sum payment will be paid between 28 May–8 June 2012 for Age Pension recipients and on 25 June 2012 for Seniors Supplement recipients.
Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders must tell the Department of Human Services that they want to receive the Seniors Supplement, and supply us with their bank details to receive the Clean Energy Advance.
MyTime reaches out to grandparents
Caring full-time for your grandchildren can be a very rewarding experience—but it can become overwhelming at times.
Recognising the need to provide more support for grandparent carers, the Australian Government has launched 25 MyTime for Grandparents peer support groups.
MyTime for Grandparents peer support groups aim to help grandparents connect with services and assistance available in their local area, as well as provide an opportunity to share their experiences and get support from other grandparents who are also caring for their grandchildren.
There are 25 MyTime for Grandparents peer support groups operating across Australia. Each group has a facilitator for the grandparents, and a play helper who runs safe and appropriate activities for the children.
This ensures that grandparents can discuss issues in an environment separate from the children they are caring for—and know that the kids are having fun at the same time.
The groups can support up to 12 families, and meet once a fortnight during school term. Because they are tailored to meet the needs of each individual group, session times and topics are flexible.
MyTime for Grandparents is co-ordinated nationally by the Parenting Research Centre which is responsible for ensuring services are delivered in the 25 locations.
For more information, or to find out if there is a MyTime for Grandparents peer support group near you, phone FreecallTM 1800 889 997 or go to mytime.net.au and select ‘Grandparents’.
Support on hand
The Department of Human Services acknowledges the vital role grandparents can play in caring for their grandchildren.
The department provides family support services, financial assistance and Medicare benefits to assist grandparent carers.
For more information on the support and services available to grandparent carers visit humanservices.gov.au/olderaustralians or call the Older Australians Line 132 300.
Organisation Nominees can now access services online
People can nominate either individuals or organisations to act on their behalf and conduct their business with the department.
A new service, introduced in December 2011, provides Organisation Nominees with another choice for completing their business with the Department of Human Services. Until now only Individual Nominees have had the option to register and conduct online business with the department on your behalf. Your Organisation Nominee can now register for Online Services. This will enable them to also conduct business for you using our Online Services.
If you have an organisation as your nominee it can use online services to complete business for you, including advising a change in your circumstances, viewing your details and receiving copies of your mail electronically.
To find out more information about Online Services visit humanservices.gov.au or call 132 300.
The Department of Human Services may call you to discuss your investments
From January 2012, the department began contacting customers by phone to discuss and update any changes to their financial circumstances.
If you have investments, the department may call to help you understand your reporting obligations and update your record to reduce the risk of receiving an incorrect payment. During the phone call we may talk about any investments you may have, such as:
• bank accounts
• term deposits
• managed investments
• foreign investments, or
We may ask you to confirm details such as balances of your bank accounts, details of shares that you own or other investment accounts in your name.
The department matches financial information obtained by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) in relation to investment income paid by Australian businesses. The financial matches help the department to assess the correct rate of payment and may be discussed during these phone calls.
If you are contacted by phone, staff from the department will identify themselves and the purpose of the call. If you are concerned about the authenticity of the caller at any time you should call the Older Australians Line on 132 300.
We will respect your privacy. We will not ask for personal security information related to your investments such as passwords or your Personal Identity Number (PIN).
Under no circumstances will you be asked to transfer or deposit money into another person’s account.
If you require further information, call the Older Australians Line on 132 300 or visit us at humanservices.gov.au to find your nearest Service Centre.
Concerned about the caller?
Due to recent scams and hoaxes, if you are worried about the authenticity or nature of the call, phone the Older Australians Line on 132 300 or visit us at humanservices.gov.au to find your nearest Service Centre.
Turn to page 25 for some useful tips on how to avoid scams.
Speaking up about aged care
Help is at hand to allow you to speak up about the standard of care provided by the Australian Government’s subsidised residential or community aged care service.
The Australian Government is reforming and improving the Aged Care Complaints Scheme. This free service provides a way for consumers to resolve complaints about aged care.
The changes to the Scheme are aimed at improving the safety and wellbeing of people receiving care. The Scheme staff will encourage and assist you to talk to your aged care provider. Often, concerns can be resolved quickly and effectively at an early stage.
Raising concerns help providers of aged care improve the quality of care and services they provide, so an issue raised, or complaint lodged, can help other people too.
It is important that people can raise their concerns in a constructive way—and that’s where the Scheme can play a useful role.
Reforms to the Scheme began in 2010 and will continue through to 2014. These reforms will improve the Scheme’s operations, timeliness and transparency through an improved complaint handling approach and new complaints framework.
The new Scheme’s focus on resolution—along with better ways of resolving issues—means the Scheme can resolve a person’s concern effectively and achieve the best result for the care recipient. Scheme staff will gather as much information as possible about your concern to help them understand all the issues and your expectations.
If you are not satisfied with how your complaint is being handled, you can provide feedback at any time. You can also ask the Scheme to reconsider a decision or the process that was followed or request the Aged Care Commissioner to independently review the process or decision.
Who can raise a concern?
The Scheme can accept complaints from anyone—including care recipients, carers, advocates, representatives, aged care staff, family and friends, health professionals and others. This ensures that care recipients have a voice and that concerns can be examined no matter who raises them.
What concerns can the Scheme examine?
The Scheme can examine complaints relating to an approved aged care provider’s responsibilities under the Aged Care Act 1997 (the Act). This includes concerns about care, choice of activities, discrimination, catering, communication or the physical environment. The Scheme can refer complaints that fall outside of this scope to other organisations.
How can I contact the Scheme?
The Scheme can be contacted on FreecallTM 1800 550 552. If you are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment, the Scheme can help through the National Relay Service. Call FreecallTM 1800 555 677 and ask for FreecallTM 1800 550 552. If you need an interpreter, we can assist through the Translating and Interpreting Service. Call 131 450 and ask for FreecallTM 1800 550 552.
You can also write to the Scheme at: Aged Care Complaints Scheme, Department of Health and Ageing, GPO Box 9848, in your capital city.
Another option is to contact the Scheme via its website at agedcarecomplaints.govspace.gov.au
An online complaint form is available under the Contact Us tab.
You can also view, download or order brochures, posters, fact sheets and a booklet about the scheme from the website.
Private Health Insurance changes
From July 1 this year the Private Health Insurance rebate will be means-tested.
Very few older Australians will be affected by these changes and only singles earning over $84,000 and couples on more than $168,000 a year will see any change.
People earning less than these amounts will continue to receive the full rebate.
For people and couples earning more than those amounts the rebate will decrease in three stages, until it cuts out completely for individuals earning more than $130,000 and couples earning more than $260,000.
Higher Rebates for older people are still available.
The table below has all the details.
The rebate is payable in one of three ways:
• as a reduction on the premium you pay to your insurer
• as a payment from Medicare (when you show a receipt for your full insurance premium) or
• refunded through your tax return.
If your income is below $84,000 (for singles) or $168,000 (for families/couples) you do not need to make any alteration to your current private health insurance arrangements.
If your income is above the thresholds, and you receive the rebate as a reduction on your premium or as a refund from Medicare, you will need to inform your insurer or Medicare.
If you nominate an income level that results in a lower rebate than you are entitled to, you will receive a rebate ‘refund’ through your tax return for that year.
If you nominate a level that results in a higher rebate than you are entitled to, you will incur a liability through your tax return that year. There are no additional penalties for estimating incorrectly.
Pensioners who do not pay tax are still eligible for the rebate.
For couples of different ages, the rebate is calculated according to the age of the oldest person covered by the policy.
Under the new arrangements, the Medicare levy surcharge, paid by those who do not hold private health insurance, will also be means-tested.
Further information is available at privatehealthinsurance.gov.au
< age 65
MEDICARE LEVY SURCHARGE
How to avoid those scams
Everyone has a story to tell about scams—the ‘too good to be true’ offer that came in an email, in the post or over the phone. Like others in the community, seniors can fall prey to scams that range from fake lotteries to investment opportunities and computer access.
The scams often end with people parting with personal information, bank account details or hard cash.
News for Seniors has assembled some useful advice to help you avoid problems.
Be on your guard about every offer that is made to you
Your best defence against scams is to hang up the phone, delete the email or shred the letter if you think it looks even vaguely like a scam.
Do your own checks
Never rely on the information a potential scammer gives you. Research before you deal with the person or company. Ask a close friend or family member for help and advice, or seek independent professional or legal advice.
Ask the right questions
Check the legitimacy of what someone is offering and ask:
• their name and/or the company they represent
• who owns the company (if applicable), and
• their contact name, address and number.
Secure your computer and mobile device
Delete and do not open any unsolicited or suspicious emails that you do not recognise. Enable the security settings on your computer and mobile devices and install current anti-virus programs.
You can put your name on the Do Not Call Register (call 1300 792 958 or visit donotcall.gov.au) to remove your name from telemarketing phone lists. This should reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive, but it will not stop scammers from phoning you as they do not follow the rules set by government.
For useful websites with more information visit moneysmart.gov.au click on scams, and scamwatch.gov.au
Remember: There are no guaranteed get-rich-quick schemes. The only people who make money are the scammers.
New carers resource
Across Australia many grandparents are parenting for a second time after taking on the full-time care of their grandchildren. Lots of seniors are also raising children through a foster care or family care arrangement.
Research has found that many grandparents, foster and other family carers are missing out on support services available to help them.
To address this, the Australian Government has developed an online resource to improve carers’ access to information on the range of services and support available.
At familyrelationships.gov.au/carers you will find information about government and non-government support and services available.
For more information on the support and services available to grandparent carers visit humanservices.gov.au/olderaustralians or call the Older Australians Line 132 300.
Listen up: help on hearing
Dr John D’Arcy (back to camera) talks about the importance of hearing checks to local seniors at the Manningham Men’s Shed in Victoria. Dr D’Arcy, the Australian Hearing Ambassador, helped with free hearing screenings for men over 65 during Men’s Health Week.
Australian Hearing will run the same program with the Men’s Sheds in June. Last year more than 55 Men’s Sheds took part.
According to Dr D’Arcy, men in particular are often unwilling to deal with problems such as hearing loss. ‘However, it’s important to have a hearing check and manage hearing loss effectively rather than wait to take action,’ he says.
• For more information on how Australian Hearing can help you, call 131 797, or visit the website hearing.com.au
• Listen to Dr John D’Arcy talk about hearing loss in older men and women at our News for Seniors audio download—humanservices.gov.au/newsforseniors