Online version of the 2012-13 Department of Health and Ageing Annual Report

3.7: Carers Recognition and Addressing Disability

Page last updated: 29 October 2013

We are committed to recognising and supporting staff that have caring responsibilities

Carer Recognition Act 2010

The Carer Recognition Act 2010 came into effect on 18 November 2010. The aim of the Act is to increase recognition and awareness of the role carers play in providing daily care and support to people with disability, medical conditions, mental illness or who are frail aged.

The criteria below measure the Department’s compliance with the Act and the responses provide an overall assessment of performance in 2012-13.

Measures Taken by the Department to Ensure Employees and Agents have an Awareness and Understanding of the Statement for Australia’s Carers [Part 3 s7(1)]

The Department registered as a Care Aware Workplace under the National Carer Awareness Initiative in October 2012, reflecting its commitment to recognising and supporting carers in the workplace.

The Department provides funding and conducts information sharing activities for Carers Week each year. Carers Week aims to raise the profile of carers and the Carer Recognition Act 2010, including the Statement for Australia’s Carers. Departmental Carers Week activities included a national discussion with Departmental Carers, an information session, morning teas and display of Carers Week posters.

Department’s Internal Human Resource Policies, so far as they may Significantly Affect an Employee’s Caring Role, are to be Developed Having Due Regard to the Statement for Australia’s Carers [Part 3 s7(2)]

Departmental staff may access a range of conditions, provided through the Enterprise Agreement 2011-2014 and employment guidelines, aimed at supporting them with their caring responsibilities. As a registered Care Aware Workplace under the National Carer Awareness Initiative, the provisions represent the Department’s commitment to recognising and supporting staff members caring for someone with a disability, mental illness, a chronic condition, or who is frail and dependent on them for support and attention.

Provisions available to assist staff with caring responsibilities include:

  • paid and unpaid carers leave which may be granted for a range of reasons, including to meet family responsibilities and to provide care and support to family or household members where required;
  • the ability to purchase up to six weeks additional leave per calendar year, with payment for the leave able to be spread over a maximum period of twelve months;
  • ongoing delivery of the Department’s Improving Wellness and Motivation in the Workplace Initiative that, as part of its objectives, aims to help staff members to better balance their work and caring responsibilities;
  • family care rooms to enable staff to carry out aspects of their normal duties while caring for dependants, as an alternative to taking leave;
  • appropriate facilities to undertake breastfeeding, lactation and associated activities for mothers returning to work after maternity leave, with the Department currently an accredited Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace;
  • family care assistance to meet reasonable costs incurred by staff for family care arrangements where they are required by the Department to be away from their household outside of the standard working day;
  • an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which offers counselling for staff and their family to assist with work or personal issues; and
  • flexible working arrangements, such as part time employment, flex-time and home-based work, to help accommodate the needs of staff members with caring responsibilities.

Measures Taken to Ensure that Employees and Agents take Action to Reflect the Principles of the Statement for Australia’s Carers in Developing, Implementing, Providing or Evaluating Care Supports [Part 3 s8(1)]

In developing aged care policy and in service delivery, consideration is given to the needs of a number of vulnerable groups, including the specific needs of carers. Compliance with the Act is written into aged care service providers’ funding agreement schedules.

In 2012-13, as part of the development work for carer support centres, research was conducted to develop an evidence base on carer needs and support services. This was followed by national consultations with key carer stakeholders including carers and carer representatives to input into the development of model options.

An evaluation of the long day respite options supporting employed carers was conducted during 2012-13 as part of the Department’s commitment to carers through the National Carer Strategy. The evaluation gathered and analysed data from a broad range of sources in order to fully understand the support requirements and issues affecting carers who are in the workforce or re-entering the workforce.

In 2012-13, the National Ageing and Aged Care Strategy for people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds was released. The strategy acknowledges the importance of recognising the valuable role performed by carers in providing support for older people from CALD backgrounds. The strategy aims to generate a greater awareness and understanding of the role of carers as partners in care by promoting carer specific information to aged care service providers and CALD communities.

Actions of the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Ageing and Aged Care Strategy, released in 2012-13, target LGBTI people and their carers equally. Government-funded aged care providers are supported to develop policies and organisational processes to address discrimination and prejudice; and to promote inclusion of LGBTI people, carers and staff within a best practice framework and among other residents/clients.

The Partners in Recovery (PIR) initiative promotes carers being recognised, respected and supported in providing support to people with severe and persistent mental illness with complex needs. Services and supports are made available from multiple sectors that patients and carers may come into contact with (and could benefit from) to work in a more collaborative, coordinated, and integrated way.

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Consult Carers or Bodies that Represent Carers when Developing or Evaluating Care Supports [Part 3 s8(2)]

Throughout 2012-13, the Department worked closely with the number of specialist advisory groups to inform design and implementation of the Living Longer Living Better aged care reforms.

Individual carers and representatives of carer organisations participated in stakeholder and community consultations undertaken during 2012-13 to:

  • inform the strategic goals and action areas of the National Ageing and Aged Care Strategy for people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds and the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Ageing and Aged Care Strategy;
  • consult on the implementation arrangements, including the development of program guidelines for the Home Care Packages Program (to commence from 1 August 2013); and
  • market research for the My Aged Care website (which was launched on 1 July 2013).

A number of advisory groups that include carers or their representatives provided:

  • guidance for the overall implementation of the PIR Initiative; and
  • advice to the Minister responsible for Ageing and the Department on issues relating to dementia programs including those affecting carers.

In addition, the Department is working closely with the Australian Bureau of Statistics to improve the evidence base for carer research, particularly through work to improve the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers.

The Department also funds advocacy agencies and peak bodies to represent carers issues to Government and the Department.

The National Disability Strategy

Since 1994, Commonwealth departments and agencies have reported on their performance as policy adviser, purchaser, employer, regulator and provider under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy. In 2007-08, reporting on the employer role was transferred to the Australian Public Service Commission’s State of the Service Report and the APS Statistical Bulletin. From 2010-11, departments and agencies have no longer been required to report on these functions.

The Commonwealth Disability Strategy has been overtaken by a new National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 which sets out a ten year national policy framework to improve the lives of people with disability, promote participation and create a more inclusive society. A high level two-yearly report will track progress against each of the six outcome areas of the Strategy and present a picture of how people with disability are faring.

The Social Inclusion Measurement and Reporting Strategy agreed by the Government in December 2009 will also include some reporting on disability matters in its regular How Australia is Faring report and, if appropriate, in strategic change indicators in agency Annual Reports. More detail on social inclusion can be found in Part 3.8: Strategic Change Indicators of Social Inclusion, in this annual report.

Agency Multicultural Plan

Following extensive consultation in 2012-13 within the Health and Ageing Portfolio, the Department released its Agency Multicultural Plan 2013-15. This reaffirms The Department’s commitment to health services that are accessible and responsive to the needs of all Australians, including those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

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