Government Response - Report on the inquiry into better support for carers 41-45
Recommendations 41 - 45
That the Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations ensure that employment service providers: consider the specific needs of carers seeking suitable employment; and encourage and support employers to provide employment opportunities for carers.
The Commonwealth Government agrees with this recommendation. The Commonwealth Government’s new approach to employment services ensures that employment service providers consider the specific needs of carers seeking employment and better supports and encourages employers to provide employment opportunities for carers.
Job Services Australia, which began on 1 July 2009, is the Commonwealth Government’s new approach to employment services and focuses on meeting both the employment and recruitment needs of job seekers and employers. It represents an investment of $4.9 billion over the next three years. Job Services Australia folds seven programs (for example Job Network, the Personal Support Program and Work for the Dole) into a 'one-stop-shop' and provides job seekers with more personalised services.
Job Services Australia helps individuals to obtain the skills they need and secure sustainable employment. Every eligible job seeker will be linked to a provider of their choice who will have the flexibility to develop individually tailored assistance for them commensurate with their level of disadvantage. There will be a greater emphasis on addressing skill shortages, targeting more disadvantaged job seekers, and social inclusion.
Job Services Australia has a particular focus on disadvantaged job seekers, which includes carers. A person receiving Carer Payment can choose to participate as a Fully Eligible job seeker or as a Stream 1 (Limited) job seeker. Depending on the needs of the individual carer and their level of disadvantage, assistance can include:
- assessment of current skill levels and personal goals
- professional skills development, work experience and training
- job search assistance, including help with résumés and interview techniques
- help to address personal issues and other barriers to employment.
Components of this new system of employment services, which carers may benefit from, include:
- Employment Pathway Plans, which are individually tailored plans for job seekers to develop pathways into sustainable employment and take into account individual circumstances and caring responsibilities.
- The Employment Pathway Fund, which can be used by Job Service Australia providers to purchase a broad range of goods and services to assist job seekers address personal barriers and obtain a job.
- The Innovation Fund, which provides $41 million for the development of innovative projects to connect the most disadvantaged job seekers to training and employment.
- Employer Brokers, who work with Job Services Australia providers and employers to better match the needs of job seekers with the labour requirements of employers.
Job Services Australia providers are also eligible to receive full outcome payments for job seekers in receipt of carer payments who choose to work reduced hours due to their caring responsibilities. In these situations, job seekers are required to be in employment for at least 30 hours a fortnight over a 13 and 26 week period. The level of Outcome payment is dependent on the Stream the job seeker is in, with job seekers in Stream 4 attracting a higher Outcome fee commensurate with their level of disadvantage.
Additionally, as noted in Recommendation 39, 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.
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That the Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations ensure that employment service providers consider the skills development and training needs of carers, particularly long-term carers, when developing plans to assist those wishing to enter or re-enter the workforce after a period of absence.
The Commonwealth Government’s new approach to employment services will ensure that service providers consider the skills development and training needs of carers wishing to enter or re-enter the workforce after a period of absence.
As outlined in the response to Recommendation 41, since 1 July 2009, Job Services Australia has been providing tailored assistance to carers seeking suitable employment. This new employment system is more responsive to job seekers’ individual needs and circumstances and includes a greater emphasis on working with individual employers.
Carers can now work with employment service providers to develop their own combination of job search, training and other assistance to address their barriers to employment.
Job Services Australia provides services commensurate with job seekers’ needs. For example Stream 1 Services are provided to those that are more job ready, with Stream 4 Services provided to the most disadvantaged job seekers in the community—people with complex and/or multiple personal barriers that prevent them from obtaining employment.
Job Services Australia providers deliver services tailored to the individual job seeker’s circumstances. This includes providing or organising assessments, counselling, professional support, and referral to other support services the job seeker needs to overcome their barriers.
Job Services Australia providers are also able to use the Employment Pathway Fund to purchase goods and services that job seekers need to overcome their barriers. The level of Employment Pathway Fund credit is dependent on which Stream the job seeker is receiving. Job Seekers Australia providers also receive service and outcome fees that are commensurate with the job seeker’s level of disadvantage and the Stream the job seeker is in.
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That the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs direct the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs to increase the number of hours of work, volunteering or study that those receiving Carer Payment can undertake.
The Commonwealth Government does not agree to increase the number of hours of work, volunteering or study that those receiving Carer Payment can undertake.
The current rules enable Carer Payment recipients to work, study or do a combination of activities for up to 25 hours a week without it affecting their qualification for payment (the 25 hour rule). The number of allowable hours has increased from 20 hours a week before April 2005 and 10 hours a week before July 1997. Carer Payment rules also allow a carer to temporarily cease to provide care for up to 63 days a year without affecting their qualification.
The Commonwealth Government understands that carers face many barriers to undertaking study, work and volunteering, including inflexible working arrangements and inadequate alternative care arrangements. Although the Committee cited examples of the restrictive nature of the 25 hour rule, the Commonwealth Government does not consider that the rule is a significant barrier to carers combining caring with work or study.
However, as a matter of priority, the Commonwealth Government agrees to undertake further work on developing options to assist young carers overcome barriers to completing their education.
In relation to young carers of workforce age, the Commonwealth Government considers that increasing the allowable number of hours would be at odds with the intention of Carer Payment, which is to provide an income support payment for people who are unable to support themselves through significant workforce participation, due to the demands of their caring role.
The Pension Review identified that Carer Payment should more actively address questions of workforce participation and building pathways to employment, and accordingly notes that the review of Australia’s Future Tax System is looking at working-age income support payments, including Carer Payment, and work incentives. Accordingly, further work on this issue may be undertaken, pending the outcome of the review of Australia’s Future Tax System.
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That the Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations direct the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, in association with state and territory education departments, to develop flexible policies to make it easier for students to combine education with caring.
Improving support for young carers is a priority for the Commonwealth Government and the Government commits to further work to improve the educational attainment of young carers. This will include consideration of the recommendations arising from the Bring It! 2008 Young Carers Forum.
State and Territory Governments have primary responsibility for the delivery of school education and related support services for students. However, the Commonwealth Government agrees to work with State and Territory Governments to develop flexible policies to make it easier for students to combine their education with caring.
The Commonwealth Government, through the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, has developed two resource kits to assist teachers to identify, understand and better support young carers. These kits, Teachers—chances are that you have at least two young carers in your class and Supporting young carers in secondary schools, are designed to assist primary school teachers and secondary school teachers to better support young carers to sustain and accomplish their education and transitional outcomes.
The Commonwealth Government, through the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, has commissioned the Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales, to conduct a major, multi-stage study into the advantages and disadvantages of care giving for young carers, Young carers in Australia: Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of their care giving. The study will include a literature review, quantitative analysis of existing national data sets, focus groups with young carers and interviews with Commonwealth Government policy makers and service providers in the non-government sector. This research will inform future policy work in this area.
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That the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs direct the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs to extend the eligibility criteria for its Respite for Young Carers at Risk Program to include assistance for more than one young carer in a family unit where the care responsibilities are shared.
The Commonwealth Government addressed this issue in 2008 by expanding and renaming the Respite for Young Carers at Risk Program, now the Young Carers Respite and Information Services Program.
The expanded Young Carers Respite and Information Services Program recognises that care responsibilities are shared, and that families often have secondary carers where children and young people are primary carers. Secondary carers are supported in the expanded program, where they are assessed as meeting the eligibility criteria.
The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs is continuing to 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.
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