THE federal government has announced a boost to pension payments to help 3.6 million pensioners keep pace with rising living costs.

The increase will come into effect on March 20 and is aimed at helping pensioners keep up with the cost of living, the federal government says.

Federal Minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews said the payment rise had been driven by the consumer price index increase of 1.9 per cent for the first six months to December 2013.

“The Coalition government is pleased to deliver increases to those on the age pension, disability support pension, carer payment and veterans’ income support,” Mr Andrews said yesterday.

He signalled another rise would occur in September to reflect growth in the CPI or the pensioner and beneficiary living cost index, whichever was higher.

Single age pensioners would receive an increase of $15.70 a fortnight, while age pensioner couples would receive an extra $23.80 a fortnight.

“This means total pension payments for people on the maximum rate will be $842.80 a fortnight for singles and $1270.60 a fortnight for couples,” Mr Andrews said.

One million allowance recipients would also benefit from a boost to income support payments such as Newstart and Parenting Payment as of March 20.

The announcement comes as the government is reportedly considering combining disability payments and payments to the unemployed into a single welfare payment.

Mr Andrews said the government needed to tackle welfare reform because the budget was in a dire position.

The federal opposition believed any move to combine the dole and disability pensions into a universal payment was just putting the boot into disabled people.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten accused the government of persecuting people with disabilities and seeking to slash their incomes.

“They seem to believe that everyone on the disability pension is rorting the system,” he said.

“That isn’t true.”

The head of the government’s welfare review, Patrick McClure, recommended to the Howard government in 2000 that it create a single, unified payment for all welfare recipients with top- up amounts based on further need. AAP