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Concession system reform sought

A report released by the South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS) said the state’s concession system needs to be reformed to make people with low incomes and those living with disabilities the priority.

Jan 29, 2024, updated Jan 29, 2024
SACOSS has released a report saying the state concession system needs reform. Photo: Unsplash

SACOSS has released a report saying the state concession system needs reform. Photo: Unsplash

The report was commissioned by the South Australian Council of Social Service in early 2023, with results coming from a panel of 33 people across all ages, genders and backgrounds.

SACOSS acting CEO Dr Rebecca Tooher said there is a disconnect within the concession system, and that it was like a “patchwork quilt with lots of band aids”.

“There is not a coherent system that uses one approach to make sure that the people most in need are the people that are getting concessions,” Tooher said.

“There is a whole range of smaller more niche concessions that really help the people who need them but don’t address the needs of a lot of people in the population.”

Currently, eligibility for many concessions focuses more on age and Centrelink categories than income or actual necessity.

Tooher said the panel identified the proposed new priorities of those with lower incomes and people living with disabilities by assessing who needs the payments the most.

“When they thought about it the best way to work out who should get it [concession] is to work out who needs it most. The point of concession is to help people pay their bills, so it should be the people that are most struggling to pay their bills,” she said.

The panel found the community wants increased reach of concession schemes, a simplified application process, and better access to address barriers such as language, location and internet access.

Tooher called on the government to provide additional funding to the concession system to see SACOSS’ proposed changes implemented.

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“We would really like to see the government put aside enough money so that it can actually address some of these bigger reforms, and take the time needed to make those changes that would genuinely make for a better fairer system,” Tooher said.

Minister for Human Services Nat Cook told InDaily the potential future reforms would form part of the government’s review of the concession system.

“I welcome SACOSS and other organisations’ input and the issues raised are being considered as part of the State Budget process,” Cook said.

“Dealing with cost of living pressures is front of mind for our government and we continue to work closely with the federal government and many community sector organisations on how these can best be addressed.”

The highest priority areas for financial assistance identified in the report were energy and water bills, followed by the cost of living and medical assistance.

The report said concessions should aim to support “equitable inclusion and participation in society” but noted they are part of a bigger picture, and cannot solve the issues alone.

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