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Key Issues for Carers

Caring friends and families save the Australian community more than $60 billion per year by providing care that would otherwise have to be funded through the budgets dedicated to health, mental health, ageing and disability.[1] Yet too many carers experience declining health, financial hardship and social isolation because they are not adequately recognised and supported.

The caring role needs to be valued, recognised and supported

Too often, too much of the responsibility of caring falls on individuals.[2][3]

  • Caring should not carry the financial, health and social risks to individuals that it does today.
  • Caring should be valued by the community and understood as a normal part of life. Reducing the stigma associated with caring will encourage more carers to seek out the services they need and are entitled to.
  • Professionals and service providers in all sectors need to work in partnership with family and friend carers, to value their expertise and to acknowledge the extensive support they provide.

Carers need financial security

Carers often experience financial hardship.[4] The responsibilities of caring can make it difficult to remain in full time paid employment and the extra costs relating to care and to disability can consume a significant proportion of household income.

Reforms are required to the income support, taxation and superannuation systems to improve carers financial security:

  • Tax system and Centrelink reforms should make paid work more compatible with caring and make it easier for carers to move into and out of employment.
  • Adequate income support payments and government funded superannuation should be available for carers who are unable to participate in paid work due to their caring role.
  • Adequate funding should be available to care receivers so their needs are met.

Carers need flexible workplaces

In Australia we value the care of young children and a number of government policies help parents to balance work and family responsibilities. We want similar policy reforms to value and support all forms of caring across our lives.

Carers need reforms to workplace regulation to help them to continue to participate in the workforce:

  • An extension of work-life balance reforms, such as the right to request flexible work and the right to paid and unpaid care leave.
  • Businesses need to recognise the benefits of supporting carers in the workplace and introduce carer friendly practices such as flexible hours and working from home.
  • Greater workforce participation by carers will be facilitated by affordable, high quality services that provide care for older people and people with disabilities.
  • Carers needing to re-enter the workforce should be able to access retraining programs and be considered with affirmative action measures.

Carers need high quality and flexible support services that support the caring role

Services must match the needs and expectations of those who are providing care and those who are receiving it.

  • Services need to be available on an ongoing basis, be accessible, affordable, flexible and meet expected industry standards.
  • More options in supported accommodation and access to stable, low cost social housing would benefit both carers and the people they support.
  • Training and advice on the caring role should be readily available to carers, some of whom may seek to have their skills formally recognised.
  • Regional, rural and remote carers need access to services that reduce the barriers of distance and isolation.[5]

[1] Access Economics. 2010. The Economic Value of Informal Care. A Report for Carers Australia.

[2] Edwards, Ben, Daryl J. Higgins, Matthew Gray, Norbert Zmijewski, Marcia Kingston. 2008. The Nature and Impact of Caring for Family Members with a Disability in Australia. Australian Institute for Family Studies, Canberra.

[3] Cummins, R., J. Hughes, A. Tomyn, A. Gibson, J. Woerner and L. Lai. 2007. ‘The Wellbeing of Australians – Carer health and wellbeing’. The Australian Centre on Quality of Life, Deaking University, Australian Unity and Carers Australia.

[4] National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling. N.d. Women Carers in Financial Stress Report. University of Canberra. Canberra.

[5] Edwards, Ben, Matthew Gray, Jennifer Baxter and Boyd Hunter. 2009. The Tyranny of Distance? Carers Australia, Australian Institute of Family Studies and Commonwealth Financial Planning, Canberra.