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Thursday, 19 September 1996
Page: 3586

Senator SANDY MACDONALD —My question is directed to Senator Newman, the Minister for Social Security. Minister, voluntary carers of the sick, elderly and disabled often go unrecognised, yet they provide an extremely valuable service to Australian society and in fact save us billions of dollars. The Carers Association of Australia has commented on the initiatives in the budget which affect carers. Could the minister please outline these comments and expand on how the initiatives will assist carers and recognise the valuable role which they play.

Senator NEWMAN —Senator Sandy Macdonald is right in highlighting yet another area of the budget which has been very well received by the people of Australia. It is no wonder that the responses to polls such as the Morgan poll that Senator Alston was referring to a little while ago report that people are not ambivalent about this budget in any way: the highest majority since 1978 believe it is a good budget.

This is one of the reasons why the budget has been so well received. For many years the Carers Association of Australia was a voice crying in the wilderness, with the Labor government giving it little or no attention. It was a matter of some surprise to the coalition that so little consideration was given to the plight of carers, because in a very practical sense they are providing a national effort which could hardly be duplicated by institutional care in this country. Even if it could, the cost to the nation would be enormous and the quality of the care could never match that of people who are giving care to those they love.

The role of the carer is one of the most undervalued in Australia, and it was certainly undervalued by the previous government. Carers go about their work in a dedicated and benevolent fashion without fanfare, without reward—and they are not really asking for that. They assist in the de-institutionalisation of the sick and the disabled by enabling them to remain in the familiar surroundings of their home.

The national carers action plan is being fully implemented, and that demonstrates our real commitment to carers. The Carers Association of Australia, in October 1994, put out a report entitled `Listen to carers: the many voices of care. On its front page, that report said:

Carers are living lives of quiet drama, with little recognition or reward. Carers are angry, fed up and filling an ever increasing care gap. Carers are also exhausted, lonely, ill and poor.

It took a change of government before those needs were met in a substantial and meaningful way. I would like to incorporate in Hansard the press release put out by the carers association entitled `Forgotten people' recognised in budget . In that the executive director of the Carers Association of Australia is reported as saying:

. . . the fact that the Government will be establishing Carer Resource Centres sends a direct message to all carers that this Government cares about them.

She went on to talk about the various initiatives, such as increasing the number of respite days allowed for carers from 42 to 52 days a year, essentially recognising that carers are entitled to at least one day off a week. That is going to give them the opportunity for some sort of break. There is going to be an extra $36 million in the budget for additional respite care resources, which makes those things lock together in a very productive way.

In the social security portfolio we have increased the number of hours that a carer can spend in either paid work, voluntary work or study from 10 to 20 hours a week. Of course, it is very important for younger carers to be able to maintain their work or studies so that they can contribute to their family's income and their own sense of well being.

There is also $31 million in the Budget being provided to support children with high levels of need. That, again, is going to be especially important to carers. Altogether—

Senator Patterson —The other side doesn't talk about that.

Senator NEWMAN —Not only do they not talk about it, Senator Patterson, but also they choose to ignore the whole issue. The discussion that is going on on the other side of the chamber makes it very clear that the opposition is not in the least interested in carers. They continue their wilful way that they had in government. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT —Order! Is leave granted for Senator Newman to incorporate the statement she referred to?

Senator Faulkner —We have not seen it but we will grant leave.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows

Media Release

Carers Association of Australia Incorporated

`Forgotten People' Recognised in Budget

The Federal Budget has recognised the vital contribution that carers make to their community, according to the Executive Director of the Carers Association of Australia, Ms Anne Marie Mioche.

The Government will establish a National Respite for Carers Program which will operate over the next 4 years and will also see the establishment of Carer Resource Centres across Australia. `In the context of this budget, $36.7 million above the 1995-96 expenditure is quite a lot of money' Ms Mioche said, adding, `the fact that the Government will be establishing Carer Resource Centres sends a direct message to all carers that this Government cares about them'.

`Carers also welcome the Government's Budget initiative to recognise the work of carers by renaming the Carer Pension the Carer Payment' says Ms Mioche. `and we also welcome the increased number of respite days from 42 to 52 days a year which will give carer pensioners the equivalent of one Sunday off a week', Ms Mioche said. Another welcome Budget measure is the extension of the number of hours carer pensioners may spend in work or study from 10 to 20 hours a week.

`We are pleased with the additional funding of $31 million which will be provided to support children with high levels of needs, particularly those with a disability who would not normally be able to be placed in Federally funded child care services', says Ms Mioche. `Younger carers need to be able to continue to work or study so that they can contribute to their family's income, and their own sense of well being'.

Ms Mioche says the Association also looks forward to contributing to the review of Commonwealth carer income support arrangements announced in the Budget. `Carers tend to be poor and marginalised by their dedication', she says, `an examination of the adequacy of existing provisions as well as the scope to improve targeting and rationalisation of payment structures is long overdue'.

Contact:   Anne-Marie Mioche   Averil Fink

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