The ACT Government has abandoned plans to increase the eligible age to obtain a Seniors Card to 65 by 2025, announcing that from July next year the age will drop from 62 to 60.
The 2016-17 Budget moved to restrict access to the card, setting out a path of incremental rises in the eligible age, increasing by a year every two years. The age rose to 62 only a few months ago in July.
But now, Minister for Seniors and Veterans Gordon Ramsay has announced that from July 2020 Canberrans aged 60 or over will be entitled to obtain a senior’s card as part of a 2019-20 Budget Review initiative.
The ACT Seniors Card is issued free and provides a range of ACT Government concessions, including a 10 per cent discount on motor vehicle registration, 28 per cent for electric vehicle registration and concessional public transport fares at peak times and free travel at off-peak times, and discounts on a range of goods and services provided by participating businesses.
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It also allows seniors to access reciprocal discounts in other States and Territories.
To be eligible, a senior needs to be a permanent resident of the ACT and not be in paid employment for more than 20 hours per week. There are around 8,500 seniors in the ACT aged 60 and 61.
The change is estimated to cost around $0.9 million over the next three years.
A spokesperson said the Government had listened to community concerns about the current arrangements, particularly in regard to reciprocal arrangements with other jurisdictions.
The new eligibility criteria would align the ACT Seniors Card with NSW, allowing ACT seniors traveling to NSW to continue to access discounts.
The start date of 1 July 2020 was to be in line with the Cabinet decision and also provided time for the Council of the Ageing (COTA) to implement the changes.
Mr Ramsay said the Seniors Card helped ease some cost of living pressures for our older Canberrans, but also encouraged social inclusion. Older Canberrans played a substantial role in the ACT community and allowing a greater number of older Canberrans to access concessions would benefit the community more broadly.
“Our community of older Canberrans has the highest rates of volunteering and caring nationally, and are the healthiest and most educated in the country,” Mr Ramsay said.
“They bring significant resources through their years of experience to the social, community and economic life of our city.”
“As our city continues to grow it’s important that we ensure that older Canberrans remain engaged in our community and that they have access to the appropriate services at a reasonable cost.”
The Government is developing a new Age-Friendly City Action Plan, which is due to be unveiled in the first half of 2020.