Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

Report into experiences of mental health carers released

Mental health carers across Australia are reporting better access to information and support according to a new report released today, however there are challenges to overcome with carers continuing to face discrimination and isolation in their communities.

Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas, today launched theMental Health Carers Report 2010, a national collection of mental health care data by the Mental Health Council of Australia.

Over 750 carers from across Australia provided a unique insight into the challenges and obstacles they face as mental health carers, and how increased quality and availability of services is helping them in their role.

Carers reported an increase in access to information and knowledge, and through better support systems and services, they were able to improve their family relationship skills and spend more time reconnecting with their family, friends and the community.

While the report demonstrates there have been notable improvements since the 2009 Adversity to Advocacy Report, it shows that gaps continue to exist.

Stigma, discrimination and isolation were raised as persistent challenges for mental health carers, and the need for information sharing, support networks, accommodation and respite options, financial costs and flexible employments options were also highlighted.

This report serves as a reminder to all levels of government, service providers, and the wider community that much more needs to be done to support mental health carers.

The Australian Government is working to better respond to the needs of carers.

The Australian Government is investing more than $200 million over five years from 2009-10 in the Mental Health Respite initiative, which will provide a range of flexible respite options for carers of people with severe mental illness and/or intellectual disability.

There are 188 sites across Australia delivering services through Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres and National Respite Development Fund providers under the initiative which provide a wide range of community, aged and support services to assist relatives and friends caring for someone at home.

The Mental Health Community Based Services initiative is also targeting families, carers, children and young people affected by mental illness with a focus on prevention and early intervention support.

Over $49 million has been committed over five years from 2009-10 to this initiative to support 44 sites across the country through mental health support services.

To better recognise and support the needs of carers, we are developing the National Carer Strategy, which will be delivered in the first half of 2011.

It will complement the Carer Recognition Bill which acknowledges all carers should have the same rights, choices and opportunities as other Australians.

The Australian Government recognises the immense social, emotional and financial pressure that carers face in caring for their loved ones, and is working to ensure carers are able to take part in all aspects of life, including work, community and family life.