October 18, 2016
This week is National Carers Week, a time to acknowledge and celebrate the outstanding contribution that Australia’s unpaid carers make to our nation. These people contribute an estimated $60 billion of value per year to Australia, but, despite their incredible efforts, they often experience social isolation and find it difficult to maintain employment, enter the workforce or participate in education. I heard from a constituent this week, Janeane Baker, who acts as the sole carer for her son while also maintaining full-time employment. We should try and understand how mammoth the task must be—impacting on carers’ energy levels, emotional wellbeing and financial circumstances—and how difficult it is for all of them.
While Janeane has qualified for acceptance to the Disability Support Register to enable access to carers respite services, she has been told that the funding will not begin until someone else leaves the system. The waiting time remains indefinite. Until then, Janeane will carry the load for her son, who has high-functioning autism. And can I just say: what a remarkable person she is.
This is only one of a raft of issues with support services that government can provide to unpaid carers. She was put on hold for 45 minutes while trying to sort out her carers payment, which is now under review. Nor should she be subjected to this kind of additional stress, given the stress that she faces day to day.