Government Response - Report on the inquiry into better support for carers 21-25
Recommendations 21 - 25
That the Minister for Human Services, in consultation with the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, direct their Departments to review Centrelink’s application processes for income support for carers and care receivers with a view to streamlining processes and simplifying the content and design of its claim forms. The review should also include consideration of how Centrelink’s data capture and management systems might be improved to reduce the need for carers to provide the same information on multiple occasions.
The Commonwealth Government agrees that application processes for income support should be streamlined and notes the work undertaken by Centrelink to achieve this aim.
As part of the implementation of the Carers—Improved Support package announced in the 2008–09 Budget, Centrelink and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs have reviewed the application processes for carer payments where the care receiver is aged under 16 years, and are working to introduce streamlined processes for applications for carer payments for this group.
Some measures to improve and streamline the content and design of claim forms were implemented on 1 July 2009 along with the reforms to the eligibility and assessment process for Carer Payment (child). These reforms include allowing recipients of Carer Payment (child) to also be automatically eligible for Carer Allowance in respect of the child care receiver.
Further initiatives to simplify claim forms and reduce the need for carers to provide the same information on multiple occasions will be implemented in 2009‑10, including pre-population of forms with known information.
The Commonwealth Government is also introducing better and fairer assessment procedures for the Disability Support Pension, as part of the Secure and Sustainable Pension Reform package announced in the 2009–10 Budget. The existing eligibility criteria will remain unchanged. However, from 1 July 2010, the assessment for Disability Support Pension will be simplified to fast-track claimants who are clearly or manifestly eligible due to a catastrophic, congenital disability or cancer, enabling faster access to financial support.
The Commonwealth Government also notes that work is being undertaken within Centrelink to examine the frequency with which payment recipients must provide information.
More broadly the Commonwealth Government has committed $20 million to drive a significant program of reform to improve the delivery of the Commonwealth Government’s human services, under a five-year research alliance between Centrelink and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation - the Human Services Delivery Research Alliance.
The Research Alliance aims to cultivate a national service delivery system that is evidence-based, sustainable, people-centric and harmonised across government and public human service delivery dimensions. It will use innovative technologies and practices to increase the efficiency of government services, create options for future service delivery and improve the capacity for government to build better relationships with its customers.
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That the Minister for Human Services direct Centrelink to establish a dedicated Carer/Disability Unit with staff to provide specialist advice to carers and care receivers, including those with complex care and family issues.
The Commonwealth Government notes that there are a number of supports and mechanisms already in place which are intended to ensure that carers receive appropriate and accurate advice and support from Centrelink staff.
Centrelink offers a range of mechanisms to support carers and care receivers, particularly those with complex care and family issues. These include:
- expert staff in call centres and support for staff in the Customer Service Centre network to provide carers with advice about the payments and services for them
- a network of social workers to assist carers with a range of issues, including complex care and family matters
- carer awareness training for network staff.
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That the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs through the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs fund a survey to measure the financial costs to households of caring for people with disability.
The Commonwealth Government recognises the importance of investing in research to support the provision of policy and program design. The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs’ Research and Evaluation Plan guides the development of the Department’s evidence base and contains a list of identified carer research questions covering a range of areas such as characteristics and demographic changes as well as the supports, services, costs, needs, interventions, outcomes and participation of carers.
The Commonwealth Government notes that significant research into the costs of caring has already been undertaken or underway and considered this to address the intention of the recommendation.
Most recently the Commonwealth Government, through the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, commissioned the Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales, to undertake research into the costs of caring and the living standards of carers. The research, titled The costs of caring and the living standards of carers will explore:
- what is known about the direct and indirect costs of informal caring
- the living standards of different subgroups of carers in Australia
- the most robust methods to investigate the direct costs of care
- data available in Australia to investigate the direct costs of care.
The Commonwealth Government has also funded the Australian Bureau of Statistics to produce the Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index that more specifically reflects changes in the living costs of pensioners (including those in receipt of Disability Support Pension or Carer Payment). The Commonwealth Government will use the Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index and the Consumer Price Index to index base pension rates and continue to use Male Total Average Weekly Earnings as a benchmark.
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That the Minister for Health and Ageing increase the level of the subsidy available to eligible clients for the purchase of continence aids through the Continence Aids Assistance Scheme.
The Continence Aids Assistance Scheme assists eligible people to meet some of the costs of continence products. The Commonwealth Government indexes payments made under the Continence Aids Assistance Scheme annually. The maximum annual subsidy level was increased by $10.55 in 2009–10, from $479.40 to $489.95 per financial year.
From 1 July 2010, the Continence Aids Assistance Scheme will be replaced by the Continence Aids Payment Scheme.
Eligibility and the rate of payment for the new scheme will remain the same as it is under the Continence Aids Assistance Scheme, however clients will receive a direct payment into a nominated bank account. This will enable clients to use the payment to shop around and purchase products that best meet their needs. At present, consumers can only access their continence products from one provider. The changes will open the market to both specialist and retail providers, and it is expected that this will increase choice and provide greater value for money for consumers.
A transition period from the Continence Aids Assistance Scheme to the Continence Aids Payment Scheme will occur during 2009–10.
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That the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs negotiate through the National Disability Agreement to extend considerations in relation to developing more consistent access to aids and equipment, to also include consideration of a more consistent framework to assist with capital costs incurred as a result of disability and care, such as vehicle and home modifications.
Under the National Disability Agreement, the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments have agreed to develop more consistent approaches for access to aids and equipment by the end of 2012. Within this reform agenda, the Commonwealth Government agrees to raise with State and Territory Governments the issue of the development of a more consistent framework to assist with capital costs incurred as a result of disability and care.
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