The McClure interim report on Australia’s Welfare System canvasses a range of options for those family and friend unpaid carers of people with a disability, chronic illness or who are frail aged and who receive the Carer Payment.
“We are pleased that the report acknowledges that many carers on Carer Payment will not be able to participate in education and employment requirements such as those facing Newstart participants, for example. In the case of these carers it is proposed that there might simply be a requirement to engage in a discussion about future plans,” said Ara Cresswell, CEO of Carers Australia.
“We are also pleased that the report acknowledges the need for support for long-term carers to transition into education and work, once their caring role diminishes or ends. This is something Carers Australia has been advocating for some years.
“However, other areas of the report raise concerns,” said Ms Cresswell.
A repeated theme throughout the report is that the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will allow carers to work part-time or participate in activities that may enhance their employment prospects into the future.
“While this may apply to some carers - and we have no idea how many would fall into this category - it remains an untested assumption. The NDIS is still in its infancy and we do not know what the impact will be on carers. Furthermore, it will not be fully rolled out until 2019. Major social policy changes should be based on hard evidence, not assumptions,” said Ms Cresswell.
“The same caveat applies to assumptions that people with a disability which may allow them to participate in some form of work at least some of the time should not require the Disability Support Pension; although it is acknowledged they may need some lesser form of income support. In a highly competitive employment environment, it is not easy for people with a disability to find work in the first place.
“This is also the case for people whose disability is of an episodic nature. Their prospects of moving in and out of the workforce when they have periods of lesser impairment – as may be the case for some people with mental health problems – needs to be subjected to a very robust reality test,” said Ms Cresswell.
While the report does recognise that changes will need to be made to build more opportunities for vulnerable groups to engage in employment, it also acknowledges that this will be highly dependent on changing the attitudes of employers.
“Before changing the participation rules for people on the Disability Support Pension, greater employment opportunities need to become a reality, not just an optimistic expectation. To do so would be to place a very harsh additional financial burden on those people with a disability and their carers who are already struggling to make ends meet.”
Carers Australia looks forward to responding in detail to the interim report with a particular focus on the prospects for turning good intentions into practical realities.