Attention: Letters to the Editor
Monday, 22 August 2016
To The Editor,
As CEO of WeCare, a not-for-profit organisation that advocates for unpaid carers, I write in response to Greg Narsey’s opinion piece published in The Age on Thursday, 18 August. His comments regarding government support to full-time carers are misinformed and also misleading to readers.
Mr Narsey’s views seem to question the motivation and integrity of carers as well as the value of their roles. As an advocate of Australia’s carer community, I would like to address these misconceptions and raise awareness of carers’ roles and their contributions.
Deloitte Access Economics estimates that around 2.8 million Australians are providing some level of care to a person with a disability. Of that population, a significant number are ‘primary carers’. They are usually relatives, friends or spouses and informally provide the majority of a person’s care. According to Deloitte, in 2015 informal carers collectively provided an estimated 1.9 billion hours of care, the replacement value of which would cost tax payers $60.3 billion. Despite this, informal carers are unpaid and often out-of-pocket.
There are further misconceptions regarding carers and employment and Mr Narsey’s comments painting carers as work-shy are not helpful. ABS figures show that in 2012, 38.9% of primary carers spent 40 hours or more providing care while another 19.5% spent between 20 and 40 hours. For many of those who do not work, the choice is generally not their own and has been dictated by circumstance.
The role of carers is critical to bridging the gaps in our health care and social systems. Informal carers not only aid people with disabilities in going about their day, they also make valuable contributions by assisting with work, study and other pathways to employment.
For those looking to “tighten the purse strings”, it makes neither moral nor economic sense to denigrate and further deprive carers. A more sensible approach to optimising the care industry would be to support carers in assisting people with disabilities to enter into work or study, thereby leaving time for the carer to also engage in paid work or study.
Chief Executive Officer, WeCare