Carers Australia - the national peak body working with and for carers - has been instrumental in influencing the development of a National Carer Recognition Framework.
In 2009 the Australian Government made a commitment to introduce a National Carer Framework and Strategy. The first element of this framework, the Carer Recognition Legislation was enacted in November 2011. The second element a National Carers Strategy is in the development phase. A discussion paper Towards a National Carer Strategy was published in 2010, and Carers Australia coordinated national carer consultations designed to seek input into the strategic direction planning process of the Strategy. The Australian Government is now working on developing their response to the feedback from carers, service providers and peak organisations.
Carers face immense social, emotional and financial pressure providing care for family members, relatives and friends with a disability, mental illness, chronic condition, terminal illness or who are frail. There are approximately 2.6 million Australian carers and 500,000 of these are primary carers, the people who provide the most care.
The National Carer Strategy aims to recognise and support carers through all stages of caring, so they can maintain their health and well-being and take part in all aspects of life in Australia, including work, community and family life.
The National Carer Strategy will provide goals to guide policy development and service delivery for carers, and very importantly it will set out clearly how all levels of government will work together to make a policy a reality. Carers Australia is very supportive of the carer recognition framework and has been instrumental in advocating for carer recognition legislation and for the development of a carer recognition strategy over a number of years.
The National Carer consultations gave carers across the country an opportunity to voice their opinion on the draft goals of the Strategy including:
Carers provided valuable feedback on how these goals might be achieved, as well as suggesting improvements which could be made, what the government should focus on under each goal, and whether other important areas had been overlooked. A major area of concern for carers is financial security, which has been recommended as an additional goal.
Australia's 2.6 million carers are the foundation of Australia's community care, aged care, disability, mental health, primary health and palliative care systems. They play a vital role in looking after family members or friends so they can live at home and remain connected with their communities. The National Carer Strategy Framework should provide the direction to achieve this.