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Community newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin Region
Nationwide News Pty. Limited
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Nationwide News Pty. Limited
10 OPINION WEDNESDAY MAY 21 2014 SUBE01Z01MA - V1 Budget pain for older Aussies OLDER Australians fared poorly in the 2014 Budget with a big hit to the age pension, introduction of co-payments for health care, cuts to aged care and the abolition of measures to improve housing affordability. Heres a brief outline of what happened, but COTA NT urges seniors to visit cotant.org.au for the big picture on the Budget. Age pension Increase the age pension qualifying age to gradually reach 70 years by 2035. Index pension and equivalent payments by the Consumer Price Index. Freeze eligibility thresholds for pension and pension-related payments for three years from 2017. Reset deeming thresholds for pension income testing. Australia will have the high est age for the age pension in any OECD country, the rationale being that life expectancy is rising so people should work longer. COTA is concerned this ignores the fact many people leave the workforce before 65 because of ill health or a disability. And it ignores age discrimination in the workforce, which makes it difficult for many people to work beyond their mid-50s. COTA is opposed to the change in the indexation of the age pension. The CPI does not reflect the spending patterns of low-income people, including pensioners. It does not keep pace with the standard of living. The government says the pension is an income replacement payment. COTA agrees, and that is why it must be linked to wages. The combination of freezing the eligibility thresholds for both the income and assets test, and lowering the deeming thresholds for assets, will mean a large number of people will lose entitlement to a part pension, pension supplement and range of concessions including medicines. Health Establish Medical Research Fund with all savings from health reforms to go to this fund. Introduce a patient contri bution of $7 per service for GP, pathology and diagnostic imaging services. Cease funding guarantees for public hospitals. Increase the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) co-payments and safety net thresholds. Full implementation of National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. Establishment of Primary Health Networks to replace Medicare Locals. COTA is against patient contributions for GP visits, pathology and diagnostics. Evidence shows the introduction of this fee will lead to people not seeking medical attention early and not getting the treatment needed in a timely manner. COTA is also opposed to the increase in the co-payments for PBS items and the safety net threshold. For people with chronic and complex conditions that require regular GP visits, pathology and multiple medications, the additional fees could have serious financial implications. The Budget flags a change in legislation to allow the Territory to charge people for emergency department presentations. This is an acknowledgment that many people will not be able to pay the GP contribution and will attend hospital emergency to get treatment. This will be fraught with difficulties around emergency departments needing to assess if the presentation is a GP one or not. Seniors supplement Age pensioners will continue to receive the Pension Supplement, which has not changed. Changes announced in this years Budget were to the Seniors Supplement, which will be abolished. It is not paid to age pensioners. Age pensioners and people who have a CSHC will continue to be entitled to the Energy Supplement. They will also continue to have access to a range of concessions, including cheaper Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme items and a lower threshold for the Extended Medicare Safety Net. View more about the Budget at cotant.org.au Reports are now a minefield for teachers REPORTS for the first semester of the year are just around the corner. In the 1970s and early 1980s, reports for primary schoolchildren were standardised and handwritten. They were four-page, A5size documents that rated students in each subject. There was space for comments on work habits, behaviour and deportment. Schools used carbon paper parents received the original, the school kept the duplicate. Reporting processes have changed as priorities change, but schools are still required to report on key areas. The computer era Computer-generated reports should be easy, but technical issues occur, from system overload to template issues. One of the most common glitches is that data, once entered, cannot be changed. Reporting priorities Reports take weeks to prepare. The focus is on academic outcomes and achievements. They are often wordy, with parents criticising the use of jargon. Comments on student effort, attitude, conduct and character development are less important, which is a shame as there is more to young peoples development than academics. Accountability Students used to be held accountable for their attitude and effort at school. This gave teachers confidence to report on these attributes, as they knew parents would talk with children about improvements. That appears to have changed. If students do not succeed, teachers have to justify why this might be the case. That causes them to think carefully about report wording in America, former students have sued teachers and schools over poor outcomes. The most effective reporting focuses on understanding between students, parents and staff. Nothing is better than a partnership where responsibilities are shared. ABOUT HENRY A Territorian since 1975, Henry has worked in remote, town and urban communities. He was principal at Leanyer School from 1992 until he retired in 2012. 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