Government Response - Report on the inquiry into better support for carers 36-40
Recommendations 36 - 40
That the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the Minister for Health and Ageing seek agreement through the Health, Community and Disability Services Ministerial Council to collect nationally consistent data to more accurately determine the number of carers, their profile and the level of unmet need for community based carer support services.
The Commonwealth Government acknowledges the importance of a sound evidence base and has been working with State and Territory Governments to improve the national data collected on carers.
The Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics is the recognised source of national data for carers. It aims to improve, where possible, the reliability of disability, ageing and carer data at the national, state and sub-state levels, and improve and expand the data collected on unmet demand for disability services and services for aged people, labour force participation, social inclusion and carers.
As stated in response to Recommendation 1, the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments funded the doubling of the 2009 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers sample size to collect more detailed data on the characteristics of carers and the care they provide, and to better measure their level of unmet need. Furthermore, the Commonwealth Government has agreed to explore the expansion of the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers sample size beyond 2009. The Commonwealth Government will progress this issue with State and Territory Governments in the context of future Council of Australian Government negotiations.
More broadly, under the National Disability Agreement, the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments have committed to developing a national model to estimate demand for disability services and undertake population benchmarking for disability services. This will improve the evidence base and assist the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments to measure for the first time, unmet demand for community based services for people with disability and their carers, including respite services.
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That the Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations examine options to build capacity in the community care workforce, particularly initiatives to encourage retention of trained workers in the sector.
The Commonwealth Government has examined options to build capacity in the community care workforce and recognises the importance of initiatives that encourage the retention of trained workers in the sector.
The Commonwealth Government is implementing a number of initiatives to encourage new workers into the community care workforce and to retain trained workers in the sector. These include the Productivity Places Program and monitoring the award modernisation process for industries that employ carers.
The Productivity Places Program was established in April 2008 as part of the Commonwealth Government’s Skilling Australia for the Future Initiative. The Productivity Places Program provides 711,000 training places over five years to develop skills in areas of existing and future demand, such as aged and community care.
At July 2009, there had been more than 11,800 enrolments for aged care and 12,800 enrolments for children’s services qualifications under the Productivity Places Program. The program places a high importance on nationally endorsed training and assists job seekers to acquire skills and gain lasting employment and helps existing workers to upgrade their skills.
The Commonwealth Government notes the need to recognise workers in the community care sector through appropriate remuneration and secure employment conditions. The Fair Work Act 2009 establishes a comprehensive safety net of minimum conditions for all employees covered by the federal system. One element of the safety net is the creation of modern awards. Modern awards build on the 10 minimum employment conditions established by the National Employment Standards, and many include an additional 10 minimum conditions of employment, tailored to meet the needs of a particular industry or occupation. These include minimum wages, arrangements for when work is performed, overtime and penalty rates.
The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations is monitoring the award modernisation process for industries that employ carers. Awards covering the community care industry will be considered by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission during stage four of the award modernisation process, which is due to be completed by December 2009.
The Department of Health and Ageing also administers the Community Aged Care Workforce Development Program, which provides accredited certificate-level training for personal care workers delivering Community Aged Care Packages, Extended Aged Care at Home Packages and Extended Aged Care at Home Dementia Packages. It also provides post-graduate scholarships for nurses in this sector.
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That the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs through the Health, Community and Disability Services Ministerial Council encourage states and territories to provide additional funding for disability support workers in long day care, out of hours care and school holiday care to improve access for employed carers.
The Commonwealth Government agrees to encourage State and Territory Governments, through the relevant ministerial councils, to consider providing additional funding for disability support workers in long day care and out-of-hours care as part of achieving the outcomes of the National Disability Agreement. However, it is noted that under the Agreement, the Commonwealth does not specify budget allocations and State and Territory Governments can deliver services flexibly in line with agreed outcomes.
Under the National Disability Agreement, the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments have also agreed to give priority to developing a national workforce strategy to address qualification, training and cross-sector career mapping issues, and to establishing the disability sector as an ‘industry of choice’ by the end of 2010.
The Commonwealth Government currently provides funding for long day care and out-of-hours care for specific groups. In 2007 the Commonwealth Government committed $23.6 million to the Outside School Hours Care for Teenagers with Disability initiative over five years (2007-12). This initiative assists teenagers with disability, aged 12 to 18 years, and their families by providing flexible before school, after school and/or school holiday care. There are currently 1,052 outside school hours care places in 48 locations across Australia. In the 2009-10 Budget the Commonwealth Government announced $5.1 million in additional funding over four years to 2013, for a further 250 places.
The Commonwealth Government is also establishing six Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres that will provide early learning programs and specific support to children with Autism Spectrum Disorders or Autism Spectrum Disorder like symptoms in a long day care setting. These centres are part of a broader Commonwealth Government commitment to establish 260 early learning care centres across Australia. To date, arrangements have been made for Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres to be established in Adelaide by June 2009; Brisbane and Perth by February 2010; and Melbourne and south-west Sydney by June 2010.
Inclusion Support Subsidy is currently paid to child care services approved for Child Care Benefit, including vacation care services. The subsidy is a contribution towards the costs associated with employing an additional child care worker to increase the staff to child ratio when a child or children with ongoing high support needs are in care.
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That the Minister for Health and Ageing and the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs expand any continuation of the Employed Carers Respite Initiative to provide extended respite and support for all working carers, including those who provide care to people with disabilities or mental illness who are under the age of 65 years.
The Commonwealth Government does not agree to extend the Employed Carers Respite Initiative. The Employed Carers Respite Initiative was funded as a two year pilot.
An evaluation of the Employed Carers Respite Initiative was conducted this year.
Successful projects under the Employed Carers Respite Initiative were transitioned to the broader National Respite for Carers Program. Transition plans are in place to ensure minimal disruption to carers as unsuccessful projects wind down.
The Commonwealth Government’s Fresh Ideas for Work and Family Program, which was launched on 1 March 2009, helps working parents balance their work and family responsibilities, including looking after family members with disabilities or those who are aged.
The program is a national initiative that provides grants of $5,000 to $15,000 to eligible small businesses to implement practices that help employees balance their work and family obligations and improve employee retention and productivity. The program is assisting small businesses across regional and metropolitan areas and is designed to support projects that benefit both the employer and employees, demonstrate long-term sustainable outcomes for the business and have the potential for wider application to other businesses. The first funding round has received a positive response with over 1,200 applications lodged.
The Commonwealth Government, through the Department of Health and Ageing, continues to support employed carers of the frail aged through the National Respite for Carers Program.
The Commonwealth Government, through the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs provides respite to carers of people with mental illness under the age of 65 years – including working carers – through the Mental Health Respite Program.
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That section 65(1) of the Fair Work Act 2009 be amended to extend the right to request flexible working arrangements to all employees who have recognised care responsibilities, including to those who are caring for adults with disabilities, mental illness, chronic illness or who are frail aged.
The Commonwealth Government does not agree to extend subsection 65(1) of the Fair Work Act 2009 to all employees with recognised care responsibilities.
The Fair Work Act 2009 includes a number of measures designed to assist employees to balance their work and caring responsibilities. Subsection 65(1) of the Fair Work Act 2009 provides that an ‘employee who is a parent, or has responsibility for the care of a child, may request the employer for a change in working arrangements to assist the employee to care for the child if the child is under school age; or is under 18 and has disability’.
The right to request flexible working arrangements provision in the Fair Work Act 2009 is a significant step forward in promoting flexible workplaces that balance the need for employees to manage their work and family responsibilities with the genuine requirements of businesses.
As noted by the Committee, subsection 65(1) of the Fair Work Bill 2008 was amended during the parliamentary process to extend eligibility for the right to request flexible working arrangements to employees who have responsibility for a disabled child under 18 years of age. Before the extension, subsection 65(1) was limited to employees with caring responsibilities for children under school age.
Another aspect of the Fair Work Act 2009 that may be used by employees to balance their work and caring responsibilities is the personal/carer’s leave entitlement contained in the National Employment Standards. This provision entitles an employee (other than a casual employee) to 10 days of paid personal/carer’s leave for each year of service. An employee may take carers leave to care for a member of the employee’s immediate family or household who requires care or support because of a personal illness, injury or unexpected emergency affecting the member. All employees (including casuals) are entitled to access two days of unpaid carers leave for each permissible occasion. This is the first time a federal statutory entitlement to unpaid carers leave has extended to casual employees.
In addition, the Fair Work Act 2009 provides that all modern awards and enterprise agreements must include a model flexibility clause, which will allow employers and individual employees to make arrangements that suit their particular needs. This provision is of particular benefit to employees with caring responsibilities, as it allows them to make arrangements to help manage their work and care commitments.
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