Caring responsibilities come at a huge cost to carers’ health and wellbeing. A longitudinal well-being study of 30,000 carers, by the Deakin University for the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index, found that ‘Carers have the lowest wellbeing of any large group’ considered in the study[i]. Two-thirds of carers are affected by mental and emotional health issues[ii] with most carers suffering from ‘moderate depression’[iii].

Carers provide ongoing care for others who rely on them for support. Yet, every carer is a person in their own right with service and support requirements that are different to the requirements of the person receiving care.

Services for carers should never be viewed, or funded for only some carers, or considered as a token adjunct to services provided to persons who require ongoing care. Some groups of carers – especially young carers – who have specific and different sets of support needs, have been notoriously neglected by funding considerations. This is where the issue lies. Without attention and focus on all carers, there is a danger, that into the future, eligibility and service criteria across the mix of federally and state funded carer services could leave carers struggling to access appropriate services that are specific to their needs.

Services for carers are currently undergoing changes on a grand scale. The fairly new National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) acknowledges carers’ needs via some limited options, however, leaving funding based around eligibility and service criteria.

A federally funded Integrated Carer Support Service (ICSS), which is planned for rollout via Regional Delivery Partners starting September 2019, is designed with the aim to service some of the core needs of carers and will consolidate federally funded services for carers.

However, current as well as emerging funding gaps require ongoing South Australian state commitment to carers and budget considerations.

Some of the expected funding gaps to come are likely to be around respite for carers, personalised face to face professional support and the urgency to sustainably address the needs of young carers. In a new world, the true consequences and impact of the remaining or further funding gaps are difficult to assess in advance, before the new carer services sector had a chance to embed operations starting September 2019. In line with the ICSS implementation timeline, any validated data to make an informed service gap assessment of emerging service gaps across the new carer services system will not be available until the end of 2020.

It is therefore vital that the current SA State funded carer service is extended beyond June 2020, to at least June 2021. This will provide some security for vulnerable South Australian carers; and it will allow for an informed assessment of such service gaps, to provide strategic service recommendations beyond that date.

In a recent submission Carers SA has asked the South Australian Government to ensure that carer receive continued recognition of their important contributions.

This requires a commitment beyond this election year by the South Australian Government to ensure that carers and their rights and urgent needs are not parked in the ‘Gully of the Forgotten’. It is beyond doubt, that current or emerging gaps in carer support funding across federal and state budgets need to be addressed.

In addition to gaps in carer services, South Australia are facing rising cost of living as well as transport and access to service difficulties (see: Carers SA – Transport and Care Survey 2018 – Summary Report).

Carers SA is therefore advocating for carers on these issues, and has formally asked our leaders in State Government and both sides of politics in the current Pre-Budget Submission to:

I. Ensure that appropriate and secured long-term funding for carer support services is available, which complements or addresses eligibility and access gaps; which may be ongoing or emerging funding gaps in federal or state services to carers, in order to assure carer health and wellbeing.

II. Young carers require specific support. Carers SA is urging the South Australian Government to address the young carer funding gaps via a long-term funding commitment for youth appropriate services and sustainable outcomes for young carers.

III. Commission an independent assessment of transport needs, availability, inclusive access and affordability across South Australia, to identify and address transport issues which reduce health and wellbeing outcomes for South Australian carers (and their families).

IV. Commission an independent assessment of core living expenses in SA, to assess requirements to appropriately alleviate stress and its associated links to reduced health and wellbeing outcomes for South Australian carers (and their families).

Marianne Lewis

Senior Policy, Projects and Carer Engagement Officer

[i] Clements Luke. (2013). Does your carer take sugar. Carers Australia NSW, [online] Available at: http://www.carersnsw.org.au/Assets/Files/Does_your_carer_take_sugar_Oct2013%5b1%5d.pdf

[ii] Selepak, Lynn. (2017). Carers of People with Disabilities: Current issues and future trends, [online] Available at: http://www.disability.wa.gov.au/Global/Publications/About%20us/Count%20me%20in/Research/carers-issues-trends.pdf

[iii] Clements Luke. (2013). Does your carer take sugar. Carers Australia NSW, [online] Available at: http://www.carersnsw.org.au/Assets/Files/Does_your_carer_take_sugar_Oct2013%5b1%5d.pdf

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