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Tuesday, 2 October 1984
Page: 1063

(Question No. 1122)

Senator Macklin asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 6 September 1984:

(1) Is a married pensioner whose spouse dies entitled to payment of the pension at a married rate for a further six weeks to help meet funeral costs; if so, does the Queensland Housing Commission continue to charge rent during this six week period at the married pensioner rate, thus taking most of the extra money received by the pensioner for funeral costs.

(2) Will the Minister for Social Security consider payment of a lump sum to cover funeral costs rather than the continuation of the married rate for six weeks so as to avoid this problem.

Senator Grimes —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) For up to 12 weeks after the death of one of a married pensioner couple, the surviving pensioner is paid the equivalent of the two pensions that would have been paid if the spouse had not died (except where the survivor's single rate exceeds the combined rate that was payable to the couple). The purpose of this payment is to help with the difficulty experienced by a surviving spouse in reducing household commitments and making the necessary adjustments following the loss. The additional payment was not introduced as assistance for funeral costs. Rental charges for public housing are the responsibility of the appropriate housing authority and I am not in a position to comment on rent charged to pensioners by the Queensland Housing Commission.

(2) A funeral benefit of up to $40 may be payable to the surviving pensioner spouse, if he or she is responsible for the funeral costs and each of the couple were eligible for Commonwealth pensioner concessions. Up to $20 may be paid where only the deceased was eligible for concessions. There is no proposal currently before the Government to vary this benefit.