Cost of living report : Concessions and the Cost of Living
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50 initiate a national review of energy concessions with a view to recommending a design for a nationally consistent framework and identifying an appropriate level of concessions. (ACOSS 2014, p.7) ACOSS (2014, p. 7) has identified the need to address horizontal inequities in concessions, and have also highlight that eligibility for some concessions is based on holding a Commonwealth Pension Concession Card (PCC), but excludes holders of a Commonwealth Health Care Card (HCC), despite the fact that the majority of HCC holders have significantly less income than PCC holders. This issue has been highlighted above in relation to concessions available under the NTPCCS Scheme (e.g. utilities concessions). ACOSS (2014, p.9) outlined some objectives for eligibility reform, which include that Eligibility criteria for concessions on energy consumption should be consistent across jurisdictions and should target households in most need. ACOSS has also outlined objectives for adequacy reform including that: Concessions on energy consumption should be adequate to reduce hardship and should remain so through indexation to energy prices (2014, p.10). ACOSS (2014, p.11) has also advocated the need for a national framework for energy concessions, which should set best practice benchmarks across jurisdictions, and allow flexibility for jurisdictions with distinct needs, and outlined several principles needed to meet these aims: 1. Concessions must be targeted to households in need of assistance. 2. Payments and rates must be adequate to address energy needs and ensure energy affordability for households living on low incomes. 3. A common list of medical equipment eligibility needs to be developed. 4. A common list of eligibility for thermoregulatory illness needs to be developed. ACOSS (2014, p.11) also identified that further issues need to be addressed, in particular, whether there needs to be explicit links made between the concession framework and jurisdictional energy efficiency initiatives, which NTCOSS believes would be a very worthwhile debate (see section below on Energy Efficiency in housing). ACOSS has also urged reform in the other areas to ensure people can meet their basic needs, including paying their energy bills. In particular ACOSS recommends reforms to Income Support (including raising the rate of Newstart) and to improve the employment outcomes for people locked out of the labour market, as well as to housing affordability (and they argue it is hard to separate out energy policy from the impact of housing costs on a household budget). (ACOSS 2014, p.12). See also Appendix C of this report for the list of ACOSS recommendations.
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