Carers of Canberra
Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things
A Framework for a Carers Strategy written by the Carers Voice Panel
This document sets out a Strategy to inform the enhancement of existing processes and development of new processes to support people providing care (usually unpaid).
Carers provide care for:
- people who are aged or infirm;
- people with disabilities;
- people with health issues, including mental health;
- people with drug and/or alcohol issues;
- or people with other issues that cause a person to be unable to properly care for themselves.
This Strategy also includes foster and kinship Carers.
Need for a Strategy for Carers
There are services available for Carers, and many organisations currently provide support for Carers, but Carers have difficulty in identifying:
- the scope of services available;
- the processes to be followed to access those services;
- and the time to search out appropriate support services.
Carers are too busy caring and do not have the capacity to search for support services.
Adoption of this Strategy will not only be the basis for providing improvements in the quality of life of Carers and those for whom they care. It will also raise community awareness and understanding, not just of the role of Carers, but also of the burden they have undertaken.
This Strategy will also lead to the people, who are cared for by Carers, being more readily accepted as normal people within the community, regardless of any disability.
It is currently estimated by Carers ACT that there are around 48,000 Carers in the ACT. Based on the Territory’s estimated population of 400,0001, this represents about 10% of the population.
Since there are a significant number of Carers providing concurrent care for more than one person, this Strategy will have direct bearing on the day-to-day lives of more than 25% of the Territory’s population.
Strategy Benefits - Direct
This Strategy is designed to maximise the benefits of existing support services and to provide parameters for the development and enhancement of existing services. This in turn will enhance the quality of care and enhance the quality of life of Carers and those for whom they care.
Strategy Benefits - Long Term
Adoption of this Strategy will undoubtedly result in a better life for Carers and for those for whom they care. It will also result in the Territory leading the nation in the acceptance of and support for Carers and those in their care, ensuring that all Australia will be aware that Canberra Cares.
Our Vision for a City that Cares
A community that cares for Carers and the people they care for.
Supporting Carers is investing in Canberra’s future.
This Strategy is Important Because...
Carers make a huge and largely unrecognised contribution to the ACT community and that deserves to be recognised. A better understanding of the role of Carers, through increased community awareness, must lead to more support for Carers across the ACT society and thus aid their wellbeing and health.
The Strategy should be based upon:
- Delivering a better system to enhance care for Carers, that is monitored and
refreshed over time;
- Increased support services for Carers, to reduce stress levels and improve their
- Carers being able to easily access required information to assist in their decision
making and Carer journey;
- Support for Carers in times of crisis with skilled, targeted respite and ongoing
- Carer-led governance of the strategy.
Who are Carers?
Carers are ordinary people doing extraordinary things by providing unpaid care to someone with a vulnerable need. Carers shoulder an extraordinary burden across society, often at significant personal cost. They dedicate themselves to the care of loved ones or others with extreme vulnerability, by preventing, or at least significantly delaying their institutionalisation and incarceration.
Approximately 1.8 people in 10 are listed as primary Carers in Canberra2, and many more are considered as secondary Carers within the Territory.
Having a Carers strategy, developed in partnership with Carers, is important for the ACT. The Strategy needs to have real and measurable outcomes for Carers, the people they care for and everyone living in the ACT. This strategy needs to change the way some things are administered for the betterment of our entire ACT community.
Carers want this strategy to deliver outcomes that create a more caring and carer supportive society. These outcomes include:
- Improving community awareness of the value and contribution of Carers.
We need to work to educate, build knowledge and understanding of the role and work of Carers in the community. Carers need to be recognised in their own right as Carers and not just as ‘a significant other’. They need to be recognised by the community at large and identified professionals as being an essential part of the care team because of their comprehensive knowledge of the needs of the person they care for. This will involve improving the knowledge and understanding of the community, medical practitioners, allied health professionals, child protection, educators, police and detention officers, and will result in a positive change in mind set.
A community that is proud of its Carers, and proud to be a caring community, is able to support Carers betterIn addition, caring families also need to be recognised as normal families, despite having special needs.
- Recognising Carers’ skills and knowledge.
We need to recognise the skills, knowledge and experience Carers have, how they translate in practice to individuals in their care and enable these to be recognised in the workforce. These skills, knowledge and experience may be able to be mapped to nationally accredited courses or recognised as prior learning to facilitate workforce engagement or recognition. In addition, improved supports need to be implemented to ensure young Carers are supported to complete their formal education and achieve their aspirations.
- Accepting people who are cared for as normal people in the community, regardless of any disability.
We must develop strategies to increase community understanding of how to relate to people with disabilities, so that we become a more inclusive society.
- Embedding within the ACT community a culture that every ACT citizen has some role as, and an ability, to contribute to caring.
In a caring society, everybody should feel they have an ability, or role, to contribute to the care of those in need.
- Enabling Carers to take better care of themselves through the provision of more support services (including physical and mental health).
Carers should be proud to identify themselves as a Carer, and should have access to support services needed to ensure their own health does not suffer as a result of their caring responsibilities.
- Wider supports.
Carers must have access to support services as needed to ensure their own health does not deteriorate due to their caring responsibilities. These supports need to be tailored for each Carer and adaptable as a caring role changes.
- Increased awareness and skills within government agencies.
We must increase the skills within ACT government agencies, at organisational and individual levels, to work with and respect the needs of Carers.
Recognition and respect for the skills, knowledge and contribution of Carers is needed throughout the government, service providers and workplaces.
An awareness campaign is essential to increase knowledge and understanding of the experiences of Carers in the general community, government, service providers and workplaces.
Carers need recognition within the legal system and they need to be respected for their knowledge and expertise. This in part can be achieved through involving Carers in decision making around those people they care for.
Carers need to be recognised by medical and other professionals as having valid knowledge about the people they care for. Working side by side with the medical and other professionals is what Carers want.
Education is a priority on two levels.
Firstly, there needs to be a focus put on education for young Carers, ensuring they are supported to complete their formal education and achieve their aspirations.
Secondly, there is a broader need to recognise the skills, knowledge and experience that people gain by being Carers through a form of accreditation and formal recognition.
The skills, knowledge and experience of Carers should also be validated in the workplace.
There should be improved access to relevant and current information that meets the needs of Carers. A Carer portal and or helpline would assist in providing a one-stop-shop for Carers’ information needs.
Ongoing Carer engagement
Carers need to be involved in determining their own journey. They know the services they need to best support them in their caring role and these do not always align with what is perceived or offered as support. Carers need to be involved in policy formulation and review by government and NGOs, to ensure that services continue to align with their needs.
Enhanced Support Services. There are a range of support services that are needed or need to be enhanced, reviewed or improved. The panel suggests the following common, but not exclusive, areas as needing enhanced support:
- Parking — provision of a Carer permit similar to the disability parking permit.
- Government subsidies for services such as telephone, registration, electricity etc to be extended to Carers, similar to what Centrelink recipients are able to access.
- Superannuation compensation payment to be provided for Carers by government.
- Systemic and ongoing check in with Carers ‘doing it tough’.
- Recognition events for Carers to recognise and celebrate Carer contributions to the
- Carer stories — to be recognised, told and publicised (including in the strategy
- Employer recognition of Carer needs and constraints.
There were also other areas in which Carers identified as common, but not exclusive, needs for supports to be provided free of charge to Carers, including:
- Respite care support.
- Personal well-being.
- Dispute resolution.
- A One Stop Shop for information access.
- Counselling/Social work support services specifically for Carers.
All Carers needs are reflected throughout the strategy and are treated equitably. Different types of Carers have different needs but all of these needs must be reflected in the strategy. Carers must be treated equitably. For example, kinship Carers need to be given the same levels of support as foster Carers.
This is what it is like to be a Carer...
...so you plan your life out —like anybody else in your street or suburb or city does — creating dreams for you or your kids or wider family — but life gets so busy you don’t even notice that it is slowly running off course and you are on a different trajectory than you ever imagined. Until you get a diagnosis for a family member. It might be autism, or a mental illness, or an autoimmune condition, or a stroke — and suddenly your dreams of the future are gone — replaced by a life of care.
So you adjust your dreams and focus on the day by day needs. You might find those diseases and conditions and accidents don’t just take away your dreams, but take away your loved ones as well, leaving you with people who are something like them — but in a way not — maybe more angry or less thoughtful or more forgetful or less considerate or more obsessive — and you have to adjust yourself to that too, for while you are not living the life you always planned to be living with the people you always planned to be living with, you are living a life that still has those moments on occasion, still has your family with you. And it may take some time, but you find that you have changed too.
You have to become more combative with the system than you ever were, you have to become more tolerant, forgiving and understanding of those you care for than you might have ever been, as you have to become a nurse and advocate and support worker and resource person and role model in holding it all together because those you care for rely on you and you can’t be the one who cries in frustration and says it is all too hard or refuses to engage with the system or let’s forms go unfilled or says it hurts too much — you are the carer.
So you might never have dreamed of, or planned for, this life, but it is the one you now live in..so you shrug off the regrets and tiredness and frustrations and just concentrate on day by day and crisis by crisis and intervention by intervention. How can you not ? You are the carer!
Craig, Carers Voice Panel Member 2017
1 Figures rounded from Australian Bureau of Statistics, www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3101.0
2 Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4430.0