More Support for Carers in $461 million Budget Package
A one-off boost of up to $1000 for carers, an extension of Carer Allowance, more support for young carers and elderly parents caring for a son or daughter with disabilities are part of a $461 million Carers Package in the 2004–05 Budget.
The Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, said the Australian Government was committed to providing strong support for carers and recognising the valuable role they play in the community.
“This package recognises the wide diversity of carers, their various care situations, the range of care needs and the long-term commitment of carers,” she said.
“The Budget initiatives will make a real difference to the daily lives of carers, who look after people with disabilities, those with a severe medical condition or people who are frail aged.”
The Budget measures also highlight the importance of the whole of Government approach to meeting the needs of carers of people with disabilities and the need for Australian, State and Territory Governments to work closely together in this important area.
The new support for carers in the Carers Package 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.
Senator Patterson said the new one-off Carers Bonus of $1000 payable to eligible recipients of Carers Payment and $600 to each recipient of the Carer Allowance was recognition of the contribution they make to the community in their role as a carer. The Howard Government will provide $255 million for this measure.
She said the Carer Allowance would be extended to carers who do not live with the people for whom they care. To qualify they must provide a minimum of 20 hours a week of personal care and the receiver of the care must be assessed as needing that level of care. The changes will be implemented from 1 April 2005.
Senator Patterson said this new measure, for which the Government would provide $106.9 million over four years, would help more than 13,000 additional private carers who provide substantial levels of care but do not currently live with the person for whom they care.
“The level of personal care needed will be assessed by using the Adult Disability Assessment Tool. The carer and an approved health professional both provide information to Centrelink to assess eligibility,” she said.
“This measure provides carers and the people they care for with a choice as to the living arrangements that best suit their circumstances.”
Senator Patterson said the Carers Package in this Budget also focuses on older carers who look after their sons or daughters with disabilities.
“There are a number of older parents who have devoted most of their lives to caring for a son or daughter with a disability. The Government recognises the increased need for support of this carer group,” she said.
“The Australian Government will work with the State and Territory governments to provide a guarantee that respite care will be made available for ageing parents caring for a son or daughter with a disability.”
The Australian Government would provide $72.5 million over four years which, when matched by State and Territory governments, would guarantee up to four weeks respite each year for parents aged over 70 years who are caring for their sons and daughters with disabilities. 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 each year.
“The Government recognises the complexities facing ageing parents of children with disabilities in relation to future accommodation support and care issues. A commonly asked question by parents is ‘how will my child be looked after and where will they live once I am no longer able to provide care?’ The Australian Government will take a lead role with the State and Territory Governments to develop options for better planning for ageing carers to give parents more certainty and peace of mind about their childrens’ future,” she said.
“We also recognise that ageing parents of a son or daughter with disabilities face challenges with making financial or property provisions for them. The Government will be exploring this issue in the coming months, with a view to improving current arrangements and providing more certainty for parents in this area.”
Senator Patterson said the Government had also recognised the role played by young carers.
“This measure recognises that young carers may require additional support, advice and information to prevent them from prematurely leaving their education or training programs and therefore limiting their opportunities for future development and economic independence,” she said.
The Young Carers – Respite and Information Services measure will assist at least 500 young carers each year who were considered at risk of not completing secondary education. This would enable them to access up to five hours respite a week during the school term, allowing them to attend education and training. The Australian Government will provide $26.6 million over four years for this measure.
These young carers would also gain access to one fortnight of respite care each year to undertake activities such as study for exams, training or recreation.
All young carers would have access to information, advice and referral services through a telephone hotline, on line advice and an information package.
Senator Patterson said: “Carers are those inspirational people who play an invaluable role in providing care for immediate family, other relatives or friends. They provide personal care for people with disabilities, a severe medical condition or the frail aged.
“They help with the provision of basic activities for daily living such as mobility, communication, hygiene and feeding.
“The extraordinary efforts of carers can sometimes go unnoticed. We should all be thankful for the contributions these unsung heroes make to our country.”