National Carer Awards

Speech Location:

Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney

*** Check against delivery ***

Good afternoon everyone.

Over the past twelve months, more than one in every eight Australians has cared for a friend or family member.

On the reckoning of Deloitte Access Economics, these carers devoted 1.9 billion hours caring for their fellow citizens.

Today we are recognising and celebrating this great contribution by Australians of all ages who are easing the daily lives of other Australians across the country.

This recognition is very important - which is why this Government determined to make a substantial contribution towards setting up the inaugural awards in 2014 and has done the same again to assist with this year’s programme.

The recognition of and assistance to carers is essentially a modern phenomenon. Before there were carers awards or careers assistance or payments - for well over a hundred years Australians went about caring for each other in family and other settings without any assistance or recognition at all.

On days like this it is wonderful to recognise our modern carers but also a time to reflect on how tough it was for the carers of the 1970s or 1950s or 1930s – this year carers payments are a huge part of the federal budget with $7.8 billion in payments going to carers, including 257,000 recipients of Carer Payments and 601,000 recipients of Carer Allowance.

That assistance simply did not exist for past generations of carers and - no matter how difficult things can be - changes are improving modern circumstances considerably and positively.

If the conditions of caring have changed a great deal over time it is also true to say those conditions are also still changing all the time.

In a very short contribution I just wanted to note a couple of recent developments in the areas of support for carers AND employment for carers.

Carer support services have grown over recent times but they have grown haphazardly, making them difficult to navigate and locate.

This helps explain another Deloitte finding[1] - that 61 per cent of carers had not sought support services last year.

So, I am pleased that early in my stewardship as Minister for Social Services we have launched a national Carer Gateway as the initial step in an Integrated Plan for Carer Support Services.

Carer Gateway comprises a website and a national phone service to help carers find and reach their nearest support services - sometimes websites are a drought business but I am happy to report ours is working well.

For some carers, or carers who have only recently started looking after a family member of friend, just knowing where to begin can be a daunting inquiry.

Carer Gateway can provide practical information on how to care, as well as on services and supports available and I encourage all carers to use the new website and phone service.

The reason the website is working well is likely that it was designed with advice from carers themselves, and I look forward to further valuable insight from carers as we progress the Integrated Plan.[2]

On the issue of employment - it is obvious that caring impacts work and with more than half our carers – some 1.4 million – in the paid workforce the maintaining of employment for carers in the workforce AND the transition to employment for other carers is going to be a critical issue going forward.

  • The Government is working in partnership with the NSW Government to develop and deliver two nationally significant initiatives which will contribute to improved employment outcomes for carers.
  • One is the concept of a Network of employers to help break-down barriers for carers entering or remaining in the paid workforce, the other is an app which carers can use to match their competencies to skills required for employment or training qualifications.

Comprehensive UK research has shown that employers who have policies in place to support carers see improved service delivery, cost savings and increased productivity.[3]

And, importantly,[4] the benefits of paid work for carers themselves are undeniable - improved income and superannuation, an improved ability to meet the costs of caring and better health and wellbeing.

Even more importantly employment is likely the best way to tackle another issue confronting carers that of social connectivity.

The government also recently introduced the Young Carers Bursary and I have been very pleased to learn that in a survey of the first group of young carers to receive the bursary last year, 98 per cent said it had helped them cover education costs and 76 per cent reported their grades had improved.

I was privileged to meet West Australian finalists when I presented the State awards in WA in December and for fear of being the parochial West Australian if I could wish all our WA nominees all the best in today's awards.

With that - I think you are to hear next from a young carer - Ellen is last year’s Young Carer award winner and will speak to us before she hands on the baton.

So finally - I would like to close by thanking all our carers for their work and wish you all well for your future challenges.

[3] UK Dept of Health Task and Finish Group (2013) Business Benefits of Supporting Working Carers

[4] Carers In the Workplace, Carers’ Australia website, posted 28 Sept 2012