Carers play a vital role in our community, but many of us are not aware of the enormous contribution they make to society, or fully appreciate the challenges they face every day.
Carers are not a homogenous group of people – their age group can range from young children through to older persons; they come from a diverse range of linguistic, cultural, sexually diverse and socio-economic backgrounds; and commence or end their caring role at various stages of their life.
The commitment of time and the activities that fall within a caring role are different for each carer, as the support needs of people receiving care vary widely. The nature of the caring role can also change and intensify over time. For example, while some carers provide assistance with tasks such as home maintenance and transport, others will be required to provide 24-hour supervision and assistance with the most basic activities of daily living such as personal care and feeding. A family member supporting someone with mental illness could also experience extremely intense periods of caring, due to the episodic nature of some mental health conditions.
The needs of young carers (under the age of 25) are quite different to adult carers. Many young carers assume an adult level of responsibility, and their caring role can significantly impact on their education, training, employment and social development.
Additional demand for carers can be anticipated as the rate of disability and frailty increases with an ageing population and the incidence of children born with severe disabilities increases1. Australian Government aged care reforms are encouraging and enabling people to live longer in private dwellings rather than in residential care, which is likely to mean an increased role for carers.
Concurrently, Australian Government initiatives are seeking to decrease welfare dependency and increase workforce participation. These factors combined will lead to a greater number of carers in the workforce and a need for employers across all sectors to create care-friendly workplaces and provisions. This is an area of priority focus for Carers Australia2 and the Tasmanian Government will continue to work closely with Carers Tasmania to ensure that, as an employer, the Tasmanian State Service leads by example in supporting employees with caring responsibilities.
Carers report that caring for their loved ones can be rewarding and satisfying. However, there is a personal cost in assuming a caring role. Carers are significantly worse off than the general population in regards to income, health and wellbeing, employment and social interactions. Carers living in regional and rural areas can experience additional difficulties in accessing basic supports and services.
It is important to recognise and understand carers’ needs and provide appropriate and relevant support to enable people to continue to provide home-based caring in the community.
The Tasmanian Carer Policy (the Carer Policy) will assist in continuing to raise awareness of the important and critical role of carers; promote better understanding of the issues faced by carers in their caring role; and provide the framework for government actions to identify carers and deliver support and services they need.
The Carer Policy will ensure that carers are given the opportunity to be involved in decisions that affect them and to contribute to improving the care support system by using their unique and direct experience in providing care for their loved ones.
1 DHHS (2006) Review of Disability Services Issues Paper cited by KPMG (2008), Review of Tasmanian Disability Services – Final Report, p 20