Archived News Item

Caring for the carers: take action

Sisters of Mercy of the Grafton Congregation recently received a request from a friend who has alerted them to the crisis in Australia’s aged, psychiatric and disability services – in particular, the lack of services and support for carers. The Grafton sisters encourage all people of goodwill to be informed about this issue and to take action.

Dear Friend,

Did you know that there is a crisis in aged, psychiatric and disability services in Australia? This specifically involves carers and the people that they care for. Many of our carers are exhausted, unwell and financially stretched.

Unless our Government starts addressing the issues that face carers, this crisis will only deepen. Our already overloaded nursing homes and hospitals will be inundated further with aged and disabled Australians because carers are not receiving the help that they need to care for these people at home.

I need your help by passing on the following information to all your friends and family. I also request that you send the following letter to your Member of Parliament.

I am also going to be writing to many Parliamentary Members expressing my disquiet at the lack of help carers are receiving. The government knows that carers are struggling. They have the statistics from the Census. They know that within a few years the number of Australians aged 65 and over will have increased to 5 million*. They know that at least one million of them will require accommodation. They are sticking their heads in the sand if they think that friends and family will help care for the rest that will require care in the home. Why would they when carers do not receive the help that they need now!

What is the Government going to do about accommodation? There are not enough beds now to accommodate older Australians in need.

They will probably pass off the above as the ravings on one disaffected carer. They will say that in the last budget that they are spending $1.8 billion in improving our aged care system; an extra 100,000 days of respite care over the next four years. They will also say that they will provide an additional 7,200 community care packages and that they have provided bonuses of $1000 for Carer Payments and $600 for Carers Allowance**. This is a slap in the face to the people that provide care.

Australian carers save the Australian people over $31 billion per year*** by providing care in the home. This figure only represents accommodation costs and does not factor in all the equipment and services that are needed and are provided by the carer.  

Carers need our help and support now. They need:

  • Tax breaks. Those that care for a friend or parent receive no tax relief when purchasing medical equipment or providing home modifications;
  • Medicare relief. Those that care for a friend or parent receive no tax relief when obtaining medical services that are not bulk billed;
  • Improved respite services;
  • Increased home care services;
  • Increased residential/respite places for those who do not meet the criteria for intellectual/aged care services;
  • A ‘carer’s card’ that provides them with cheaper/GST free products and services that help them support the person that they are caring for;
  • The Carers Bonus to become annual and increased in line with inflation;
  • An increase in the Carers Allowance from the pitiful $98.50 per fortnight to at least $98.50 per week.
  • An Office for Carers. Before the last Budget Carers Australia asked for the ‘establishment of a national office to coordinate carer policy across the whole of government.’ This is an excellent idea.

There are many other issues that I have not mentioned here that may affect carers in your area such as young carers, sole parent carers, carers of people with a mental illness and ageing carers and ageing people with disabilities. All carers deserve our support and help.

I request that you send or write your own letter to your Member of Parliament asking for their help with this crisis. Please pass this letter onto as many people as you can. Carers deserve our help so that they can continue to care.

Yours sincerely

Jennifer H Clarke

*Australian Bureau of Statistics – 4102.0 – Australian Social Trends, 1999 (Page 1 of 8).
**2007 Budget Facts Sheets – Sandy McDonald, Senator for New South Wales.
***Carers News, Carers (NSW) Australia – December 2005, Page 2. Quoted from Report by Access Economics – The Economic Value of Informal Care.

From: Sister Colleen Rhodes RSM (Local Communications Facilitator, Grafton)