Pensioners hit by rebate cut
Stressed: Gosnells pensioner Brian Cutjar. Picture: Bill Hatto/The West Australian

Gosnells pensioner Brian Cutjar assumed losing his wife of almost 50 years, Corrie, would be the toughest time in his life.

But since she died nine months ago, Mr Cutjar has been moved on to a single pension and regularly gets down to his last $20, even with government concessions.

Two-thirds of his pension goes in rent, leaving the 73-year-old with less than $400 a fortnight to pay for groceries, electricity, medication and insurance.

"You do get stressed because . . . it's getting harder and harder," Mr Cutjar said.

"Every month I'm tucking into what savings we had."

The State Government this week halved its cost-of-living rebate for more than 300,000 WA Seniors Card holders.

Mr Cutjar said one of his few daily joys was reading the newspaper but the reduced rebate would likely end his subscription, among other "luxuries".

"When Corrie was alive we got $250 from the living rebate, now I'll be getting $82," he said. "I'll have to cut down on the heating. I'll have to cut back on when I go shopping, using the car."

Council on the Ageing chief executive Ken Marston said he spoke to one pensioner this week who could only afford $40 a week for food. "It raises the question of what he is eating," he said. "We know that some seniors go to bed early and get under the covers rather than put the heating on."

Mr Marston said the welfare ramifications of Australia's ageing population have been known for two decades but successive Federal and State governments failed to act.

He welcomed the WA Government's review of its $430 million of concession spending but condemned the cost-of-living rebate cut as a quick fix "without proper analysis of who is affected".

With about $100 each left over at the end of the week, Mike and Helen O'Brien admit they are better off than some pensioners. They own their Wanneroo retirement home, but the couple said they had to downsize once to cover their living expenses.

Mr O'Brien, who has been retired for 19 years, said the couple were too old to supplement their income and had to cut down on health insurance to leave enough left to cover unexpected bills.

But they have not been able to do as they hoped in retirement, such as having a full social life and treating their grandchildren.

The West Australian

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