By ERWIN CHLANDA
Applicants under the NT Government’s $500 a year NT Seniors Recognition scheme need to cope with conditions that are arbitrary and unnecessarily restrictive.
Sue Shearer, CEO of the Council On The Ageing (COTA), says the scheme for any Territorian over 65 is not a welfare initiative but one of recognition and its administrative process “should not take that long”.
For example a person applying after May 2 for membership of the scheme, which runs to the end of the financial year, misses out on the payment for the current financial year.
Explains the manager of the scheme, Kelly Hunter: “Applications take up to 30 days for processing and approval.”
How come? For example, in my first-hand experience this week, COVID staff have no difficulty confirming the identity of an air passenger arriving in the Territory who has emailed his or her details earlier the same day.
Ms Hunter: “New Seniors Recognition Scheme members who are approved after 31 May will receive their first prepaid card after 1 July.”
What that means, and Ms Hunter isn’t saying so, the senior is missing out on $500 for the current financial year despite an application made almost two months before its end.
Ms Shearer says COTA has been lobbing the government on that point, that even if people have only a short time to spend the amount (all money must be spent before June 30), it should not be denied to them.
Ms Hunter: “This cut-off date is due to the 20 working day (30 days) application processing timeframe and further the manufacturing and delivery process for the prepaid cards which takes approximately 20 working days (30 days).”
I checked with a staff member of Electronic Merchant Limited, the company that produces the Visa cards for the scheme.
She told me that it takes up to five days to produce the cards. So that’s five days or less, not 30.
She told Ms Hunter the same. Ms Hunter confirmed that.
So the remaining 55 days taken to complete a simple task are down to Ms Hunter and – by extension – Seniors Minister Lauren Moss.
How is this for a doosie. Ms Hunter: “The prepaid card takes up to 20 work days (30 days) from the date of issue to be delivered via post.”
What? Australia Post takes 30 days to transport to Alice Springs an envelope containing a card and sent from an Australian capital city? Toll (for example) can do it over night.
DECLARATION OF INTEREST: I am a member of the scheme. Initially acting as a private citizen I assisted a senior making an application to join. When it became clear that the circumstances are in the public interest I decided to make them the subject of a news report. I advised Ms Hunter and Families Minister Kate Worden of that. I emailed a draft of this report to Ms Worden ahead of publication so she could exercise her right of reply. I was told my communication was forwarded to Minister Moss. Ms Hunter repeatedly outlined the process but there has been no government response to the questions raised in this report. If one is received we will publish it.
Erwin Chlanda, Editor.