Carers in our community need all the help they can get Analysis

Carers in our community need all the help they can get

Young carers have been speaking out in the media recently about the tough realities of caring for loved ones while navigating a fragmented and under-resourced service system.

Vanamali Hermans, a university student, shares her experiences caring for her parents in an article in The Guardian; and young carers appear in a segment on The 7.30 Report to give us a glimpse into their lives, which are often stressful and under-supported.

They are not alone – a 2018 carer survey shows:

  • One in three carers wants more access to respite, counselling or carer support groups
  • Almost half of carers have difficulty meeting their living expenses
  • People report lower overall wellbeing than in past surveys.

The NDIS transition is changing carer service availability and delivery. According to the same survey, almost two thirds of people caring for an NDIS participant now spend extra time organising support.

Respite care is harder to find during the NDIS rollout, and funding is being cut for carer support groups. The Federal Government has announced a new approach to carer supports, through the Integrated Carer Support Service, with this month’s changes adding more uncertainty.

The Victorian Government can help in this erratic environment. It must recognise and support Victoria’s 773,000 carers, and respond to their unique and specific needs. The Government is taking steps to help carers with jobs, health, education and financial stress, including launching the Victorian carer strategy 2018–22 earlier this year.

With the Victorian election looming, both major parties must uphold carers’ rights, and devise a comprehensive carer plan, including meeting the unique needs of younger and older carers. This can include funded carer assistance to navigate complex service systems and access up-to-date information and support. Integrated and comprehensive carer information and assistance helps overcome barriers to social and economic participation, providing carers with the same opportunities as everyone else. In the words of Ms Hermans, “more than anything, support needs to be systemic, accessible and centralised so that … carers can easily find help, instead of getting lost in or bounced around endless bureaucracy.”

Last month’s National Carers Week allowed us to reflect on the care provided by many in our community and listen to their voices. With the upcoming state election and the continuing rollout of the NDIS, we have an opportunity to improve the service system and better support Victoria’s carers.