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Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Report highlights dedication of carers

The latest report on welfare services in Australia highlights the dedication and commitment of 2.5 million Australians who provide care for family and friends, the Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, said today.

She released the report, Australia’s Welfare 2003, at Parliament House in Canberra today.

The biennial report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare is acknowledged as Australia’s most comprehensive and authoritative source of information on welfare services.

Senator Patterson said: “One of the key issues it discusses is the need for governments to keep working at providing a whole-of-government approach to make sure people who rely on welfare services don’t fall through the gaps.

“The Australian Government works closely with State and Territory Governments in a wide range of areas that support the welfare sector. Working in partnership and co-operation with the States and others means we are much more likely to get better outcomes for Australian families and communities.”

Senator Patterson said the Australian Government drew heavily on current research and evidence in developing its policies. Australia’s Welfare 2003 played a key role in providing the evidence required for policies.

The report says that on top of the annual $60 billion in Australian Government welfare funding, on behalf of taxpayers, $13.7 billion was spent annually on paid services in the welfare sector in Australia.

Senator Patterson said the household sector, which included voluntary work, contributed another $28.8 billion in 2000-01.

This covered assistance from families and friends in caring for other people’s children, their own sick children, people with disabilities and elderly people.

Senator Patterson said the report highlighted the outstanding contribution carers make to the community.

“There are about 2.5 million people providing some type of care to a family member or friend,” she said.

“These inspirational people who care for immediate family, distant relatives or friends, range in age from teenagers to retirees and often make personal and career sacrifices to care for people.

“The Australian Government recognises the vital role carers play in our society and will continue to support them through initiatives like the recently established National Family Carers Voice that provides carers with an avenue to discuss their concerns and issues.”

Latest figures show that more than 375,000 carers received a payment from Centrelink. This is an increase of about 11 per cent from the previous financial year.

In 2002-03 the Australian Government provided nearly $1.5 billion to carers, nearly 85 per cent more than in 1999-00.

Senator Patterson said the Australian Government provided funding to the States and Territories through the Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement to help them deliver specialist services to help people with disabilities.

This includes accommodation and other support services, such as providing respite care and day activity programs to people with disabilities.

Senator Patterson said: “Overall this Government has committed almost $5 billion to the Agreement between 2002 and 2007 – this is an increase of $1.7 billion over the previous agreement.”