Carers ACT is leading a consultation for the ACT Government to identify the priorities to be included in the ACT Carers Strategy which aims to support the nearly 50,000 family or friend carers living in the ACT.
Who is a Carer?
Carers provide unpaid care to family members or friends who require support because of disability, chronic illness, mental illness, drug or alcohol issues, dementia or who are ageing.
Our community care systems rely heavily on the support of family and friend carers, who provide 74% of care in the community.
During our lifetime many of us will provide care to a family member or friend, or will need care ourselves. At any time, 1 in 8 Australians is an unpaid carer. Many people don’t identify as a carer or know that support is available to help them and their family.
Why does the ACT need a Carers Strategy?
Unpaid caring is rewarding for many carers but it has a personal cost – poor health and wellbeing, reduced opportunities for employment and education, and social and financial disadvantage for carers and their families.
Unlike other Australian states and the Northern Territory, the ACT does not currently have a Carers Strategy or a Carers Framework. The Carers Strategy will be a framework for the ACT Government, government agencies, and community organisations to support and improve outcomes for ACT carers.
What are the Priority Areas?
In the commitment to an ACT Carers Strategy Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the priority areas, as outlined in the Carers ACT Booklet, An ACT that Cares for Carers, align with the priorities of the ACT Government and will be areas considered in the development of an ACT Strategy.
Outcomes of research and carer consultations by other Australian governments suggest a range of priority areas to support carers. We want to know if you agree with these draft four priority areas, or if you think other priorities are more important for carers.
1. Carer identification, community awareness and information for carers
Increased awareness and understanding of carers in our community can make it easier for people to identify as a carer and encourage them to seek information, use training and support services, including respite to provide a break from caring, when they need it.
Outcomes in this Priority Area should improve carer identification, and increase information to assist carers use of services to help them care and to help them maintain their own health and wellbeing.
2. Inclusion as partners in care
A carer’s expertise and knowledge about the person they care for, including cultural considerations can improve age or disability care plans and service delivery to help the person they care for to live at home and postpone admission to care facilities.
Carers have the right to be involved in decisions that affect them and the person they care for, and to receive the training and aids they need to support their caring role.
Outcomes in this Priority Area should increase the number of carers who feel respected and supported as partners in care, including the services they need to help their caring role.
3. Increased employment and education participation
Carers have lower workforce and education participation than people who are not carers. Many carers are forced to leave the workforce or reduce their hours of work when their caring role begins because of the difficulty to balance paid work and unpaid care responsibilities.
Young carers are less likely to complete secondary education and go on to tertiary education or join the paid workforce than young people who are not carers. They are also more likely to receive ongoing Centrelink income support.
Outcomes in this Priority Area should improve carer participation in the paid workforce or in education, and increase support by employers for carer employees.
4. Improved health and wellbeing
Carers often ignore their own health because of their caring role. Health problems, such as back problems, anxiety and depression, are a result of their caring. Caring over long periods, being a young carer, caring for a person with dementia or a mental health or behavioural condition can further lower carers personal wellbeing.
Outcomes in this Priority Area should improve the design and delivery of services to increase carers health and wellbeing.
Other Priority Areas
The ACT Government also wants to know if other Priority Areas are important to carers.