COTA SA outlines priorities ahead of the state budget

Ahead of the 2023/24 State Budget COTA SA is proud to outline the following priorities across five areas to represent the diverse voices and needs of 700,000 older South Australians.

Priority One: Cost of living and financial security

COTA SA’s first priority in the 2023/24 State Budget Submission is focused purely on measures to address cost of living pressures and financial security.

The cost of living crisis is very real and very difficult for older people, especially those on low and fixed incomes.

Through their engagement with older South Australians, they hear many stories of how people are struggling to make ends meet and the difficult choices they make to balance a budget and cut spending.

If funded, their proposals will help to alleviate the cost of living pressures currently face by so many older South Australians.

Recommendations:

  • Providing additional funding to meet the growing demand for financial counselling services and to provide additional financial counselling outreach services targeted at older women experiencing financial hardship.
  • Introducing a targeted energy efficiency strategy for social housing tenants to encourage modifications, retrofitting and appliance replacement.
  • Increasing energy concessions for low income households.
  • Developing innovative strategies to increase employment opportunities for people aged 50+.
  • Investing in a pilot project to engage older workers and employers to trial new opportunities for mature employment and enterprise in regional areas.

Priority Two: Health and wellbeing

Good health and timely access to high quality health and care services is a high priority for South Australians aged over 50. Through their engagement with older South Australians, they often hear that they want better control of their own health and patient journeys, including options to receive treatment, support and to rehabilitate in their own home.

Paramedic services are a key part of this journey and the overall public heath triage and intervention system.

Equally important to older South Australians are adopting habits that promote wellness and have a positive impact on physical and mental health. Good oral healthcare has a central place in general health. So too does physical strength and balance.

Recommendations:

  • Expanding in-home health and rehabilitation services that reduce unnecessary hospital admission, unplanned hospital readmissions and emergency department presentations
  • Funding free paramedic services for those on a full Age Pension
  • Increasing funding for public dental services, including transport to appointment
  • Funding a health promotion initiative of the importance of good oral healthcare.

Priority Three: Ageing in regional South Australia

With more than 165,000 (26%) of South Australians aged 50+ live in regional SA, and many considering themselves lucky to be living there, a strong focus on ageing well in the regions is crucial.

What is often highlighted by older people is their desire to age well and within their community, but this is riddled with its own challenges in regional SA.

Over the years of COTA SA’s journey of working with older people living in regional towns, several key recurring themes have emerged around access to transport services, adequate health care, housing, social and digital isolation, and higher unemployment rates.

There is a need for a holistic regional ageing strategy to be developed to ensure that SA regions are adequately equipped to deal with the opportunities and challenges presented by their ageing demographics.

Recommendations:

  • Addressing the critical shortage of health practitioners in regional areas.
  • The development of an Ageing in Regional South Australia strategy and a Regional Engagement Program to work with older people and stakeholders in regional areas to promote ageing well.
  • Increasing funding for Community Passenger Networks across regional South Australia.
  • Promoting better understanding and knowledge of the community transport options available.

Priority Four: Housing

Adequate housing is a key factor in enabling people to live and age well. However, from COTA SA’s previous surveys, they learnt that 89% of older respondents were concerned about housing availability in South Australia and 81% were personally struggling with housing issues or were aware of someone who is.

Increasing costs to renting or buying a home, and the lack of public housing were major concerns, especially among vulnerable groups such as older women, older people with fixed or low income, LGBTI+ or people with a disability.

The latest State of the Older Nation 2023 report highlights that every 1 in 20 older Australians surveyed (5%) feel worried about their risk of homelessness in the next 12 months, and 1% have experienced it in the past 12 months.

Recommendations:

  • To grow or improve public housing stock, in order to offer a secure, affordable tenancy option for older people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
  • To establish a specialised advocacy and housing service, based on the Home at Last model, that assists vulnerable older people in housing stress to secure ongoing housing.

Priority Five: Social connections and digital inclusion

Invisible yet prevalent, social and digital exclusion has become a pressing issue for older people, especially in the wake of the disruptive COVID-19 pandemic.

Staying connected to the community and active in mind and body is important for maintaining overall health and well-being.

This can be achieved by improving access to technology, transportation, and support when significant changes are experienced, such as moving homes, retirement, or the illness or death of a loved one.

This is even more significant for vulnerable groups, such as the LGBTI+ community, due to the fear of discrimination. In their engagement with older people living in metro Adelaide as well as regional SA, COTA SA have heard how the lack of digital access further impacts social isolation and access to services and information.

Recommendations:

  • Provide funding to COTA SA’s Rainbow Hub for LGBTI+ people aged 50+ to connect and share their stories, advice, feedback, and advocacy, including in regional South Australia.
  • Fund a digital inclusion strategy to raise awareness of digital facilities available, understand barriers in the use of services, and ensure access to public internet sites, with a focus on older people from CALD and refugee communities.
  • Contribute to digital literacy programs for people over 50, delivered via the Be Connected grants program, on a pro-rata basis for South Australia.
  • Fund COTA SA to deliver peer education to increase public transport use, which includes identifying barriers and assisting people in mastering digital applications.

COTA SA

cotasa.org.au

@cotasouthaus

8232 0422

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