Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Key Carer Measure to Start on September 1

A key Budget measure to extend eligibility for the Carer Allowance will take effect seven months earlier than planned, the Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, said today.

The measure announced in the Budget will be brought forward to start on September 1 this year. It was due to start on April 1, 2005.

Senator Patterson said the Carer Allowance will be extended to help more than 13,000 additional carers who do not live with the people for whom they care.

“This is a very important measure which provides carers and the people they care for with a choice as to the living arrangements that best suits their circumstances,” she said.

“It was originally scheduled to start on April 1 next year. However, I have been working hard to get this major initiative introduced as soon as possible.

“Bringing the arrangement forward enables us to ensure that these carers can access these more flexible arrangements at the earliest possible date.”

The Carer Allowance is a payment available to carers who provide daily care for a person with a disability, severe medical condition or who is frail aged. It is a non-means tested payment of $90.10 per fortnight.

The current eligibility criteria requires the carer and care receiver to live in the same private home. This will no longer be the case. However, carers will still be required to provide a minimum of 20 hours a week of personal care.

Senator Patterson said: “This measure will provide more assistance and greater flexibility to help carers in their important role. It also recognises it is not always possible or appropriate for a carer and the person they care for to live in the same home.

“This decision further underlines the Government’s commitment to support the valuable contribution of carers.

“The extraordinary efforts of carers can sometimes go unnoticed, they are unsung heroes who deserve recognition for their dedication to those they care for.”

The Budget contains a $461 million Carers Package. It includes:

  • A one-off Carers Bonus of $1000 to eligible recipients of Carer Payment and $600 to each recipient of Carer Allowance to be payable before the end of June 2004.
  • An extension of Carer Allowance to carers who do not live with the people for whom they provide substantial levels of personal care on a daily basis.
  • Providing young carers, who are at risk of leaving school early, with in-home respite services of up to five hours each school week to help them complete their secondary or vocational equivalent education; and giving at risk young carers one fortnight of respite care each year to undertake activities such as study for exams, training or recreation.
  • A guarantee, when matched by the States and Territories, to provide up to four weeks a year respite for parents over 70 years of age who are caring for a son or daughter with a disability. Parents aged 65 to 69 who care for a son or daughter with a disability and need to spend time in hospital will be eligible for up to two weeks respite care.
  • The Australian Government will work with the States and Territories and the carer and disability sectors to develop options to help ageing carers plan for the future care of their sons and daughters with disabilities. Ageing parents are often worried about how their children will be helped into disability accommodation when they can no longer provide care. The Australian Government will propose that the Community and Disability Services Ministerial Council establish an advisory body to develop options.