Widowed seniors face ‘unlivable’ pensions at most vulnerable

BOWEN pensioners are getting behind a petition protesting against major cuts for widowed pensioners, which they say is forcing people across the state to survive on an "unlivable" allowance and sending vulnerable residents backwards.

After the loss of a spouse, pensions are cut by 33 per cent but the rising cost of living expenses has made this amount "unlivable", Australian Pensioners' and Superannuants' League (APSL) says.

APSL state president and Bowen resident Joyce Macdonald said a substantial portion of senior citizens in Bowen would be single and rely on the single pension.

Ms Macdonald is urging Bowen residents to sign a petition being circulated by APSL, which is pushing for the reduction in pension to be 18 per cent, rather than the current 33 per cent.

Ms Macdonald said the petition was about decreasing the gap between couple and single pensions in order to give single pensioners a chance.

"This will affect every single pensioner like myself," she said.

"I pay council rates, water rates, electricity, house insurance, they are just the basics, and that would be the story for most pensioners who own their own home in Bowen."

Ms Macdonald said though she was living on the single pension she was one of the lucky ones as she owned her home, but living costs would be very difficult to maintain if you were renting.

The petition was started by APSL Caloundra president Frank Gower who said the costs of living had only been going up creating a gap that was "too much" for many pensioners to cover.

"If you don't have any illnesses, bills, a motor vehicle, if you want to live on sausages, then that's fine you can live on the pension," he said.

"If you talk to single pensioners who are renting, they're just going backwards."

Ms Macdonald said unless Bowen pensioners were lucky enough to have a lot of superannuation, then they would need to rely on the pension instead.

"I would say without any problem that yes, it would affect a lot of people unless they have a lot of superannuation," she said.

"I would be very surprised if many old darlings in Bowen had much superannuation."

Ms Macdonald said the change would greatly reduce financial burdens on recently widowed pensioners at a time when they were particularly vulnerable.

"This is not asking too much, it's a very real cost," she said.

Mr Gower said the cost of utilities and owning a home don't change after the loss of a partner, and questions why the pension should be reduced by such a large amount.

"You take utilities, it costs the same to have your utilities delivered to your home for a couple as it does for a single person," he said.

"Single pensioners will be paying virtually the same as couples, if you turn on a light it doesn't matter how many people are sitting under it, it still costs the same."

The pension amount was last raised in September 2019 by about $7.20 a fortnight for a single person.

The current couple pension is $1407 a month, which is reduced to $933.40 when someone is widowed, a reduction of 33 per cent.

Mr Gower says the reduction should be no more than 18 per cent, which would see the single pension increase by about $90 a week.

The petition states that the amount is not liveable and is reduced at a time when people need more financial support, not less, calling for the government to review the amount in light of the rising costs of living.

Mr Gower says he's received more than 600 signatures in Caloundra and is aiming for 10,000 across Queensland before he'll take the petition to Canberra.

"We're asking for 18 per cent, we aren't going to stop trying," he said.

To sign the petition, visit www.apsl.com.au/petition/ to download the petition form, and email your signed copy to apsl@apsl.com.au.