The Commonwealth Government recognises the vitally important role that carers play in providing daily care and support to people with disability, people with medical conditions, people with mental illness and aged people. We value the significant social and economic contribution that carers make to Australian society.
The Commonwealth Government’s response to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family, Community, Housing and Youth report: Who Cares …? Report on the inquiry into better support for carers occurs at a time of significant reform to the system of supports that the Commonwealth Government provides for carers, people with disability, people with mental illness and aged people.
Some of these reforms are already positively impacting on carers and the people for whom they care. These include the Secure and Sustainable Pension Reform Package which introduced pension increases from 20 September 2009 and the introduction of a permanent, ongoing Carer Supplement; the implementation of the Carer Payment (child) reforms on 1 July 2009; and the work of Job Services Australia in assisting carers entering or re‑entering the workforce.
The full extent of other reforms, such as the National Disability Agreement and proposed National Disability Strategy, will take longer to flow through. This is because these involve significant reform to Australia’s current service delivery arrangements. The Government is determined to get these reforms right. We want to ensure that carers have the support they need and, that the people they care for, have the right mix of services and programs in place.
The Commonwealth Government’s response to the Committee’s recommendations delivers a number of positive outcomes for carers. Central to the response is a commitment to ensure that carers are appropriately recognised and for this to be driven by strong national leadership. The Commonwealth Government will introduce Commonwealth carer recognition legislation in 2010. Following this, we will lead the development of a national carer recognition framework including a national carer strategy which complements and builds on state and territory carer recognition legislation and policies. The development of a national carer recognition framework will include consideration of, among other things, the training and skills development needs of carers and the adequacy of case management and care coordination for carers.
This work will occur in conjunction with the development of the National Disability Strategy, to be announced in 2010, which will provide a whole-of-government, whole‑of‑life approach to assisting people with disability and their families, friends and carers to achieve better outcomes in society.
On the important issue of access to affordable and responsive respite care services, the Commonwealth Government, under the National Disability Agreement, has provided a significant injection of funding to drive important reforms, including the need for additional places such as respite. The Commonwealth Government will continue work to streamline respite services, commencing with Commonwealth program responsibilities.
To respond to the call for greater government financial assistance for carers, the Commonwealth Government, through the Secure and Sustainable Pension Reform package, introduced a new Carer Supplement for carers in receipt of Carer Payment and/or Carer Allowance. The Carer Supplement provides carers with ongoing certainty about the level of assistance they will receive. In addition, on 20 September 2009 the Secure and Sustainable Pension Reform package delivered an increased rate of Carer Payment. The Commonwealth Government’s changes to the eligibility and assessment processes for Carer Payment (child), which were implemented on 1 July 2009, also means that more carers of children aged 16 years or younger are now benefiting from the payment.
This response outlines the Commonwealth Government’s commitment to supporting people with disability, people with mental illness and aged people and their carers. It highlights the Commonwealth Government’s commitment to improve service delivery arrangements including capacity building in the community care workforce. The response also outlines the significant work the Commonwealth Government has agreed to progress to improve the employment, education and training outcomes of carers.
The response also addresses key issues in the recommendations arising from the Final Report of the Bring It! 2008 Young Carers Forum. Specifically, the Commonwealth Government commits to do further work to improve the educational attainment of young carers; continue to support activities that promote the awareness of carers in society; and work closely with stakeholders to continue the redesign of the Young Carers Respite and Information Services Program with a focus on carer support, within a whole-of-family approach.
The Commonwealth Government remains committed to working constructively with carers, carer groups and State and Territory Governments to further investigate a range of recommendations in the report and to build on the Committee’s intentions to improve the lives of carers and those they care for.