7th International Carers Conference
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Thank you Dr Langkamp (President of Carers Australia)
Good morning everyone.
Thank you for having me at the 7th International Carers Conference.
I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we are meeting and pay my respects to their elders past and present.
I would also like to acknowledge:
- Ara Cresswell, and Carers Australia Board members in attendance;
- Chief Executive Officers of members of the International Alliance of Carer Organisations;
- The Hon Kelly Vincent;
- And, of course, all the carers, service providers, and stakeholders here today.
Over the next three days you will consider a range of issues concerning the future of carers and caring in the Australian community.
In this short speech I would like to add some observations about the issues that in the coming years will require the considered and co-operative attention of government and the caring community in Australia.
But before we all dive into considering issues about the future of carers in Australia it is useful if not critical to consider the context of caring in Australia; where we are and what issues we have been dealing with over the last several years.
Over the last 4 years the Government has focused on the overarching problem of sustainability in the welfare system.
Based on a Deloitte Access Economics 2015 estimate, carers provide some 1.9 billion hours of unpaid caring a year in Australia.
No matter how much the world changes one constant will remain and that is the need for carers and that need will be a growth feature of the Australian society, economy and welfare system into the foreseeable future.
Given the importance and growing need for carers – welfare expenditure on carers in the form of carer payment, and other related expenditures are critical parts of the Australian welfare system BUT as important as they are; carer payments are still and always will be one part of a broader system with many different payments representing different, if sometimes overlapping, needs.
The central problem that the Coalition faced in 2013 was that welfare spending was growing faster than the taxpayers’ ability to pay for it.
When we came to office in 2013, we inherited imbedded and ongoing structural spending substantially in excess of realistically deliverable revenue – under the previous government Social Security and Welfare spending was growing at almost double the rate of revenue.
There are ways to illustrate the extraordinary and unsustainable levels of welfare expenditure growth on a whole of economy level and an individual payment level.
- Under Labor in 2008-09, the yearly welfare bill climbed to more than 100 per cent of the personal income tax take — That figure is now 80%.
- The real growth in payments in this Budget has been restricted to 1.9 per cent (that is down from around 3.5 per cent under Labor).
- Government payments are now also forecast to fall to 25 per cent of GDP in 2020-21, returning close to the 30 year historical average.
And at an individual payment level for instance, growth in the Age Pension under the previous government was 8.2% a year; it was 9.5% for the Disability Support Pension and perhaps most extraordinarily, under Labor, the growth rate of job seeker income support was 13.5% per year (four times the growth rate of revenue over the period).
That was entirely unsustainable AND under the Coalition, this has been reduced to 3.7 per cent growth per year.
For any Government – the result of failing to deal with a welfare sustainability problem is the need to continually borrow money to fund today’s growth.
Borrowing money to cover huge welfare expenditure growth means THAT the next generation of Australians are left with no choice but to pay taxes to fund the welfare system of their own time AND THEN ALSO incurring higher taxes to pay back today’s welfare expenditure – this utterly fails any fairness test and should be totally unacceptable.
This is the intergenerational form of Taxation without Representation.
Because welfare spending is such a huge part of the Commonwealth budget – our successes in restraining welfare expenditure growth has been a frontline contributor to the fact that now the Turnbull Government joins the Howard Government as the second of the only two modern governments to have expenditure growth lower than revenue growth.
Ensuring our welfare system has been placed on a more sustainable footing has been a challenging if not gruelling process.
Taking just one example, more than $6 billion was saved from repealing payments that Labor said would be paid for by the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (which raised next to no money) – notably the Schoolkids Bonus and Income Support Bonus. This was described as, amongst other things, unfair. But how fair is it to borrow money to pay a bonus to today’s families that has to be paid back through higher taxes by the next generation.
In 2018-19 the Government will no longer be borrowing to fund recurrent expenditure in the welfare system or elsewhere.
This is the most undersold piece of good news for every young Australian because it represents an end being in sight to intergenerational cost shifting.
But it also means we have a more sustainable foundation for considering how we cope with and plan and pay for future demands on our welfare system.
Which brings us to the obvious growing need for care in our society, particularly care for people with a disability and care for the elderly – both issues at the forefront of your conference over the next few days.
The ageing of the population will put increased demand on carers who are already stretched.
Deloitte forecasts that, from 2016 to 2025, the demand for informal carers will increase at a faster rate than supply as the proportion of people aged over 65 increases relative to the rest of the population.
We are also now right in the middle of Australia’s response to caring for those with a disability. In one year we have moved the NDIS from 30,000 participants in trials to over 100,000 participants moving towards a full scheme participation of over 400,000 people in 2020.
Perhaps the most important benefit of the enormous efforts to get our welfare expenditure on a more sustainable footing is that we are in a far better position to responsibly pay for the NDIS without further borrowings.
The yearly expenditure growth for the NDIS is estimated to be 52% over the current forward estimates. This is of course high because the NDIS is new and is much needed. Nevertheless, imagine if we had been confronting this NDIS expenditure while still facing significant yearly growth in other areas, like unemployment benefits growth of 13.5% a year. That would have been an impossible challenge without more and more borrowings and all of the intergenerational unfairness that entails.
On top of huge efforts to restrain welfare expenditure growth, this government has had to make the tough decision to increase the Medicare levy by 0.5% to fully fund the NDIS rather than leave the problem of its funding to future generations.
There is no dispute about the virtue of the NDIS; it will change lives – it will also create 60,000 jobs in disability care out to 2020. But it must be paid for and it has been very pleasing to note that the modest increase in the Medicare levy to fully fund the NDIS has been supported unequivocally by:
- People with Disability Australia;
- Every Australian Counts;
- The New South Wales Council for Intellectual Disability;
- National Disability Services;
- Mission Australia;
- UnitingCare Australia;
- The National Ethnic Disability Alliance;
- Disability Employment Australia;
- and the Disability Advocacy Network.
Equally it has been incredibly disappointing that the policy to fully fund the NDIS has not been supported by the opposition or ACOSS, both of which fully supported precisely the same policy in 2013.
As a final important matter for consideration the paradox which we must all solve together is that, as the NDIS moves rapidly to full scheme and we require 60,000 new jobs in care, we face at the same time very poor rates of employment for carers – particularly young carers once the care relationship ends.
This government has already taken a number of steps to address issues facing carers today, with special attention being paid to young carers.
Alarmingly, research shows that 80% of carers may not be aware of the support and services available to them.
Moreover, carers seeking information on supports often have difficulty navigating the aged care, disability support, social security and health systems.
That is why the Australian Government has set up a national online and telephone support service – the Carer Gateway – to support Australia’s 2.7 million carers. The Gateway website has advice on what help is available in a carer’s local area and specific to their particular caring role.
It offers practical tips for carers from financial planning to safety in the home.
Since the Gateway was launched nearly two years ago more than half a million people have used it.
The Integrated Plan for Carer Support Services
The Carer Gateway was the first phase in developing a new integrated plan to improve the way we deliver support and services to Australian carers.
My Department has conducted an extensive co-design process with carers and with the sector to develop a new service model.
The aim is to develop a model which better coordinates carer support services and ensures carers’ needs are recognised and supported.
Importantly, there is a focus on early intervention, so carers know and benefit from available services as soon as they begin their caring role.
Work continues on the new integrated plan in consultation with the sector to ensure services are sustainable into the future.
Present carer services, funded with around $160 million a year, include counselling, peer support and emergency respite.
The range of services available indicates how carers interact with nearly every aspect of our health system – from disability services, to aged care providers, and mental health supports.
Young Carers’ Bursaries
The Government is acutely aware of the pressures young carers face and some of our most innovative work in the carer space involves our efforts to address issues for young carers.
Becoming a carer at a young age must not be allowed to blight a person’s future.
The Young Carer Bursary Program was a 2013 election promise by our Government to support young carers to complete or return to education while continuing their caring role.
We know that education plays a large part in the future of young carers and that their caring role can impact adversely on their education and therefore their futures.
Unfortunately, a high proportion of young carers don’t finish high school.
Carers Australia has been delivering the $4.5 million Young Carer Bursary Program on behalf of the Government since 2015.
Annual bursaries of $3,000 are awarded to young carers aged up to 25 to help them continue their education.
More than 980 bursaries have been awarded to date, with a further 333 to be awarded later this year.
An evaluation of the program last year found the Bursaries help young people stay in education.
We found that young people receiving bursaries to spend on items such as transport, education supplies and medical expenses are able to devote more time to study.
During a meeting I had with bursary recipients and Carers Australia, it was explained to me that it was hard to get prospective employers to understand their caring commitment in considering their suitability for a job. As a result of that meeting, from this year, bursary recipients will be provided with a certificate recognising the valuable contribution they make in their caring while completing a full year of study. I am hopeful that this small formal recognition from the Australian Government will assist young carers with job applications in future.
Try, Test and Learn Fund
The need for even further support for young carers is emphasised in the findings of an extensive analysis we have undertaken as part of our broader welfare reform agenda to help rather than hinder Australians’ wellbeing.
The 2015 analysis, undertaken by PwC as part of the Australian Priority Investment Approach to Welfare, showed that the total lifetime social security cost of supporting all current Australians that are, or will be, on welfare in their lifetime is over $4.7 trillion.
The Priority Investment Approach rests on the predictive modelling expertise used by the insurance industry to understand the likely future welfare paths and outcomes of welfare recipients.
That analysis reveals that young carers are particularly vulnerable to the risk of long term welfare dependency and the adverse effects this can have on their lives.
The data revealed that as things currently stand, young carers are expected, on average, to be on income support for 43 years over their lifetime; and that 1,800 current young carers will remain continuously on income support for the rest of their lives.
This worrying information comes at a time when the number of young carers in the welfare system is rapidly rising – having tripled in the last decade to 11,200.
The Priority Investment Approach analysis shows that only 27 per cent – just over a quarter – of all people under 25 who receive Carer Payment study beyond high school. By not furthering their education and fulfilling their potential, young carers can become isolated, with lower job prospects and welfare dependence.
If nothing changes for these young carers, two thirds of them will still be on welfare in 10 years and half will still be on welfare in 20 years.
This is a grim outlook for our young carers.
Quite frankly, they deserve better.
This is why we have selected young carers as one of the three priority groups for an initiative known as the Try, Test and Learn Fund, or TTL, to create innovative and collaborative policy responses, targeted at critical points in people’s lives, to secure a brighter future for young Australians.
The other two groups are young parents and young students.
In last year’s Budget, we allocated $96 million to the TTL to trial new and innovative ways to assist these young people into stable and meaningful employment.
The TTL Fund is for community, non-government organisations, state and local governments, with input from young people themselves, to come up with new ideas to improve the lives of our target groups. We will fund and test them to see what works and potentially roll them out more broadly where there is a substantial improvement in people’s lives.
And today, I am pleased to announce the first three successful young carers projects we are funding through the TTL:
- A Carer Achievement Pathway program developed by Carers NSW will see $840,000 provided from the TTL Fund to deliver a combination of support services such as coaching, coordinated referrals and peer networking opportunities to allow around 360 young carers in Western Sydney to plan and build their future beyond their caring role. The program will particularly assist those whose care recipients are a NDIS participant. The program will be underpinned by a digital platform allowing young carers access to online support and engagement;*
- A Skills for Microenterprise project developed by Good Shepherd Microfinance; Spark Strategy; Little Dreamers Australia; Coder Factory Academy; and Young Change Agents will see $800,000 go to help around 90 young carers in Melbourne learn the skills needed to create and run small businesses, which are also relevant skills to other formal employment. This will use multi-channel training modules, support services and peer networks to increase young carers’ social connectedness; and
- The final project, Data-driven job opportunities for young carers proposed by IBM Australia; Chandler Macleod; the Institute for Social Science Research; and Curtin University will be funded with $2.1 million to help around 65 young carers in Perth by using data analytics and augmented intelligence to provide job matching, tailored training and individual support with six months of post job placement support to increase their likelihood of success. A re-entry component will ensure young carers have multiple opportunities to continue employment if their circumstances change.
These projects will see over 500 young carers participate in innovative solutions to assist them stay in, or move into, education or work and off welfare payments to set them up for a brighter future.
With the proportion of the population requiring care increasing, innovative ways both of caring and of supporting carers will be essential.
That is why we must recognise the role of carers in the total care system and never forget that carers also need to be supported and cared for.
I have great pleasure in opening your conference and wishing you well with your deliberations.