The newly funded and tailored supports and services aim to help the nation’s 2.7 million carers and reduce their emotional or physical strain, assist them to stay in work or study, take breaks from caring responsibilities and help plan for the future, and to get that much needed support early before they reach crisis point.
Proving a fundamental shift from the current service delivery model, which is largely crisis-driven, costly and reactive, a move to early intervention and the building of carer skills is shown to lead to better longer-term outcomes and improved wellbeing for carers.
Carers Australia Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ara Cresswell has welcomed the announcement of the new services, which have come about as the result of an extensive two-year process which saw carers and the sector work closely with government.
“For some years now Carers Australia and other carer service providers have been working with the Department of Social Services to design a more integrated and nationally consistent model of delivering services to Australia’s 2.8 million family and friend carers,” Ms Cresswell explains.
“While not all carers need special support services in their own right to meet the challenges they face in their caring role, a great many do.
“Over one third of carers who are the main source of support to one or more people with disability, chronic or terminal illness, mental health challenges or who are frail aged, provide 40 hours or more of care a week and a third of such carers also have a disability of some kind themselves.
“The new integrated carer support services model announced today will extend the range and accessibility of carer supports and address some of the fragmentation of existing services, which have been a by-product of accumulated historical changes to programs and of aged care reform and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.”
The new early-intervention service model is set to be rolled out in two stages over the next 18 months.
From October 2018, carers will be able to access new supports and services through the Government’s Carer Gateway website including peer support, counselling, coaching and educational resources.
The second stage will be rolled out in September 2019 and will see the government establish a network of Regional Delivery Partners to help carers access a range of local services such as needs assessments, targeted financial support, information and advice, tailored counselling and coaching, and crisis support where required.
Until the commencement of the Regional Delivery Partners in September 2019, carers can continue to access support through their usual service providers.
As well as implementing the support service changes, the government is also introducing a $250,000 family income test threshold to the Carer Allowance payment, aligning it with other welfare payments to provide financial assistance to those who need it the most while acknowledging the immense contribution carers make to the community.
The government has provided assurance that the “generous threshold” for income-testing the Carer Allowance with still mean 99 percent of recipients will have no change to their payment under the new scheme.