Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

National Family Carers Voice: issues family carers face

The National Family Carers Voice was established in 2003 for a period of two years by then Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Amanda Vanstone, to provide advice on family carer issues.

The group consists of a range of carers representing the many different caring situations in the community. These carers and members of peak carer organisations have real life experience and understanding of the issues affecting family carers and the relationship between the care giver and recipient.

The members of the National Family Carers Voice have met over the past two years to develop a consultation process, have conducted the consultations and have completed a report detailing issues that family carers face in their day-to-day lives.

“I have appreciated the hard work and dedication of the National Family Carers Voice,” said Senator Patterson.

“The advice provided to me and the former Minister by the National Family Carers Voice has assisted in shaping policy direction in respect of carers in my portfolio.

“The substantial package of $461 million package for carers over four years announced in the 2004-05 Budget was a well deserved boost for carers,” said Senator Patterson.

The new support for carers in the Carers Package included:

  • A one-off Carers Bonus of $1000 to eligible recipients of Carer Payment and $600 to each recipient of Carer Allowance paid in 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.

During the 2004 Federal Election the Howard Government committed to introducing more flexibility for carers receiving Carers Payment by increasing the number of hours that a carer can work, train or study without losing eligibility for Carer Allowance, from 20 hours to 25 hours.

It was the National Family Carers Voice that raised with me their concerns for the plight of that ageing parents with older sons and daughters with a disability when they can no longer provide care.

“I have asked the States and Territories to work with me 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,” said Senator Patterson.

“The advice of the National Family Carers Voice was instrumental in the development these important policy initiatives.
“It is important to receive advice from carers and carer organisations and I am now considering the best way to ensure I continue to receive quality advice on carer issues,” Senator Patterson said.