The Federal Government has announced a range of promising initiatives to support Australia’s informal carers, allocating almost $6 million over the next three years to help some of our most dedicated community members.
Key initiatives announced by the Government include the creation of a National Carer Strategy, a new Carer Inclusive Workplace Initiative to better support carers in the workforce, and a two-year extension for the Carer Gateway portal.
The Government’s investment in all three initiatives is a welcomed one as carers are twice as likely to report low wellbeing compared to other adults living across Australia, according to Carers Australia. Additionally, wellbeing appears to be declining as the Carers Australia 2023 Wellbeing report saw 58.3% of carers identify as having low wellbeing, compared to 52.6% in 2022.
Younger carers, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, and LGBTIQA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and asexual) carers are among the most likely to struggle with their mental health.
However, the $3.8 million National Carer Strategy paves the road to improving informal carer experiences. It will provide a framework for the coordination of a carer policy across multiple Government departments, including aged care, disability, veterans’ affairs and mental health.
This broad approach means all carers can benefit from improved support services and funding that is likely to be carer-informed in design.
“This is also a time for us to reflect on the challenges carers face, to listen to their experiences and consider how we can strengthen support and inclusion for them,” explained Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth.
The Carer Gateway is a Government-run website created to assist carers looking for local services and support who may not have official resources at hand. It’s aimed at all informal carers but is especially beneficial for young carers, friends or family who may not view themselves as a carer for someone close to them.
“The new National Carer Strategy complements the work the Government is already doing including today launching the Carer Inclusive Workplace Initiative, which will help reduce the barriers carers face in seeking and maintaining paid employment. We know carers don’t always get the support they need, so extending Carer Gateway will assist with ensuring there’s a service to help.”
The Carer Inclusive Workplace Initiative is perhaps the most exciting announcement of all three. Partnering with Carers Australia, the Government will invest $2 million to help employers develop and adopt practices and policies to support employees with caring responsibilities.
Informal carers are 6% less likely than their peers to be employees, while many who do juggle work or school commitments are more likely to report low wellbeing and high stress levels.
But the Initiative will enable employers to better recruit, support and retain employees who care for a loved one or friend. Participating employers will also receive a Government-endorsed carer inclusive workplace logo to promote their inclusive workplace environment.
Dementia Australia Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Maree McCabe, said the Initiative would be a fantastic opportunity to support unpaid carers who provide invaluable care for their loved ones living with dementia.
“While many carers tell us it can be a rewarding experience, it can also come with many challenges that change over time. That is why it is so important for carers to have access to appropriate support,” Ms McCabe said.
“The Carer Inclusive Workplace Initiative is important to enable carers of people living with dementia to remain in or re-enter the workforce – this can be challenging for carers for many reasons including lack of employer education, awareness, and understanding of caring responsibilities and lack of flexibility in the role or workplace.
The Initiative is already up and running with a self-assessment tool on offer for organisations to evaluate their own policies and practices to determine what happens next. Organisations that score higher will instantly be deemed a carer-inclusive workplace, while e-learning modules are available for low-scoring organisations.
More information on the Carer Inclusive Workplace Initiative is available on their website while people caring for a loved one with dementia can contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500 or visit dementia.org.au for more information.