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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Carers ACT thanks Royal Commission for praising role of unpaid carers

Carers ACT has thanked the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety for praising the role of unpaid carers in the midst of a damning report.

Lisa Kelly, CEO of Carers ACT, said that the recommendations in the report will go a long way to support carers better and thanked the Royal Commission for commending the role of unpaid carers in propping up the aged care system.

“The findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care are in part a very difficult read. However, we do take heart in many of the commissioners’ recommendations. The commissioners have obviously really appreciated that carers make an important contribution to the lives of their loved ones but have seen the bigger picture, that carers are crucial to the sustainability of the aged care system as a whole,” she said.

According to Ms Kelly, there are currently over 50,000 carers in the ACT with the number growing every year.

“These carers are rarely recognised, that is why there is lack of awareness about how many unpaid carers exist and the role they take in providing what amounts to billions of dollars of free support,” she said.

“It is significant that the commission still finds time to praise the efforts of, and the reliance upon,  unpaid carers.”

According to Carers ACT, carers often do not self-identify as their caring role often evolves unexpectedly as an extension of a family relationship.

Ms Kelly said the recommendation to ensure carers are identified during aged care assessments “will be a great opportunity to support the carer from the outset”.

“This will mean we can connect with those carers and place supports and knowledge around them rather than waiting for them to find us in a time of crisis. We will be able to be proactive in helping carers.

“Carers often tell us about all of the red tape they find themselves forced to do,” she said.

“It can be a real burden as well as being difficult to navigate and often when they are most vulnerable and time poor. Better communication between agencies to reduce the necessity for duplication in intake and assessment will be a real benefit for carers.”

In Australia there are no provisions in the National Employment Standards for an employee to take extended unpaid leave for the purpose of caring for an elderly family member or close friend.

Commissioner Briggs wrote in the final report of the Aged Care Royal Commission that “the failings of the aged care system to provide adequate support to informal carers must be rectified”.

“We recommend that the Australian Government should implement a respite supports category that ensures respite is available for the carers of older people earlier and more often to provide timely assistance.”

The report stated that family, friends, and community are a crucial part of the aged care system and aged care volunteers need to be supported and trained to work with older people to help reduce social isolation and help them to live a dignified and meaningful life.

To support informal careers, a preventative approach has been proposed, including an investigation of the potential impact of amending the National Employment Standards. The amendment would include an additional entitlement to unpaid carer’s leave by 30 September 2022. 

Carers ACT believes carers will welcome a new Act that places the rights of the older people they care for at the centre of their care considerations.

“As the commissioners recognised, respite is a massive issue for carers,” Ms Kelly said.

“Having respite helps the wellbeing of the carer and sustains the caring relationship … Easier access to a variety of high-quality respite will make a world of difference to carers, particularly those whose loved ones are living with dementia.

“It was also wonderful to read the commissioners’ support for further work in improving leave arrangements for those employees providing care to older people. We know this is a significant issue for carers and we look forward to this discussion.”

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