Good morning! I hope you’re all enjoying the conference. Great to see #carersconf trending yesterday. Let’s try to keep that going. We all know how crucial public support is!
I would like to start by sharing a comment that my organisation received from a carer named Rosemary last week. Rosemary is a Geelong resident who cares for her 21 year old son Jeremy. Jeremy was born with Cerebral Palsy and lives with physical and intellectual disabilities that require round-the-clock care.
“Before the NDIS we were struggling and I was afraid to think about what will happen to Jeremy once I am no longer able to look after him. We were on never-ending waiting lists and had to drive to Melbourne every two days for Jeremy’s therapy. Now, they are coming to Jeremy. The extra care Jeremy receives allows me to work part-time for the first time in over 20 years and I have more peace of mind that Jeremy will be looked after if I can’t do it.”
And that, in a nut shell, is why the National Disability Insurance Scheme was established and why the NDIS is so crucial to supporting not only people with disabilities, but also their family and unpaid carers whose lives are affected enormously by providing care.
The NDIS is an amazing achievement and we each owe a debt of gratitude to all those who campaigned so relentlessly for it. We should also applaud the current and the previous Governments for their bipartisan commitment to ensuring that the NDIS became a reality.
So before I go on, I would like to acknowledge the Federal Minister for Disability Services, Ms. Karen Wood and Shadow Minister Mr Lee Nguyen. Their presence today reflects a further commitment to the carer community that is extremely encouraging.
I would also like to acknowledge that we are meeting on the traditional lands of the Ngunnawal people and pay respect to their Elders.
I have worked in this sector for 15 years. In that time I have met countless carers whose lives are a source of courage and inspiration. On a daily basis I speak with carers about their experiences, their achievements, their life goals and the challenges they face. Through these people, I have learnt that being a carer impacts on every aspect of life: daily schedules, work options and availability, social lives, goals, hobbies and on and on.
Too long I have witnessed carers doing it tough; financially, socially, emotionally and physically, simply by playing the hand that they were dealt and looking after a loved one with a disability.
By now, most of you will be familiar with the background and purpose of the NDIS, its vision to protect Australians in the event of significant and permanent disability and to maximise their independence and social and economic participation.
What a lot of you might be confused or unaware of is how the NDIS will help support Australia’s unpaid carer community, and why they fought so hard for its implementation.
The NDIS recognises the essential role of informal carers and aims to enable sustainable caring. It will do this by taking into account the carer’s ability to perform the tasks associated with their roles and their ability to continue providing care into the future. The impact caring has on a carers life will also be taken into account.
Carers cannot receive funding for themselves, however, the NDIS will make their lives better by providing those they care for with tailored, life-time supports. Many carers will benefit directly and indirectly from the supports and services in their participant’s plan. Some of these supports include skills and capacity building for carers to become more effective in their roles, training in parenting, behaviour management strategies, planning and decision making assistance, group and family therapy as well as provisions that may provide respite to carers.
Funded supports that provide indirect benefit to carers include skills and capacity building to boost a participant’s independence, funded activities and extra care support. All of which will contribute to lightening the load placed on carers.
Under the NDIS informal carers are supported better and can also find opportunities to combine work with caring roles as they are relieved from round-the-clock care.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme is an amazing achievement and significant forward step for Australia. Something we must not forget, however, is that not all informal carers are eligible for supports under the scheme and that the NDIS is not designed to provide all support to carers. So we need to continue to separately assess the needs of carers and deliver the appropriate support.
Thank you. Are there any questions?
How does the NDIS ensure that carers are legitimate carers and not just seeking an easy ride?
Well, as I have pointed out, caring is not an easy ride by any means. Many carers will actually miss out on NDIS supports and funding because those care for are not eligible for a plan under the guidelines of the scheme. We really should be looking at finding better ways to support those people.
If the NDIS is there to fund the care requirements of people with disabilities, wouldn’t it be better for informal carers to go back to work and let the professionals do their job?
Firstly, I in no way want to discount the work of professional, paid carers. However, recent studies indicate that informal carers are often more effective in slowing down the progression of illness and disability. Disability expert, Professor Monica Andrews is actually responsible for this study and I believe she is presenting her findings later in the conference. Ultimately, under the NDIS, who cares for a participant is up to the participant and often, due to existing bonds and a sense of family responsibility, the choice of carers are family members, spouses or close friends.