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Unpaid Carers

26 May 2021

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (15:33): I rise to shine a spotlight on the essential work of more than a quarter of a million unpaid South Australian carers who support the most vulnerable and those in greatest need in our community, and the necessity for those carers to receive the level of support necessary to undertake this vital role. Eurocarers, the national carer network in Europe, noted the 'inherent as well as an indispensable part' carers play in the 'provision, organisation and sustainability of health and social care systems'.

Anyone can find themselves a carer providing unpaid care to a family member who is frail, aged, having a disability or chronic or terminal illness. Attention has been directed at delays in the rollout of the NDIS and availability of home care packages, but little community attention has been directed at the unpaid carers who are needed to make these services work. COVID-19 has presented additional challenges.

National Carers Week in October each year provides an opportunity to raise community awareness of carers and the diversity of their caring roles In October last year, in time for National Carers Week, a survey was completed revealing some disturbing information. One half of all carers were sole carers, without assistance from any other family members or friends. High levels of stress, social isolation, financial hardship and disconnection from services planning were cited as issues.

In Europe, the same set of challenges for carer wellbeing were listed, including the difficulty in balancing paid work with carer responsibilities. The national survey revealed that carers felt a lack of inclusion and consideration in the health system and other delivery services. For example, nearly two thirds of carers reported that hospitals did not ask them about their needs. Nearly 40 per cent did not consider that hospitals provided sufficient information, and nearly one half felt there were insufficient carer support options and facilities. Hopefully, SA Health has responded and improved support for and inclusion of carers.

Level of carer payments and allowances, carer superannuation and carer leave are overdue federal reforms, requiring the encouragement of state ministers. However, the state government can extend state-based subsidies. Further work is needed investigating carer concerns and wellbeing, and how best to provide measures to support their vital role in our society. Service agencies, hospitals and GPs need to better direct carers to supports that can be accessed through the carers' gateway.

The aged-care royal commission noted that the needs of informal carers should be recognised as part of the assessment needs of the older person. Respite care must be seen as a core part of the aged-care system so that carers have regular breaks and attend to their personal wellbeing. This will sustain and support the caring role. Carers South Australia, established in 1990 by carers to represent their interests and needs and be their voice, is a not-for-profit incorporated association, with funding from state and federal government.

Carers SA is a representative organisation and service provider, offering a range of services to family carers through the state, and forming part of a national network of carer associations advocating on behalf of family and friend carers. The community and government need to recognise the key role Carers SA plays in leading change and empowering carers.

Parliament should add its recognition of this important process of Carers SA's engagement with the SA government and its health and service agencies to provide better and more relevant services to improve conditions under which carers operate, and support and further acknowledge their vital contribution to the South Australian community. The SA Carers Recognition Act needs to be upgraded to a SA carers inclusion and support act to mandate the inclusion process and level of support required.