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Thursday, 16 October 2008
Page: 6222

Senator BARNETT (2:37 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Does the minister know how many very young carers like Jazzi Pybus, who at the young age of 10 is caring for both her parents, exist in Australia? Will the minister explain why very young carers are not considered important enough to have their voices heard at the federally funded Young Carers Forum?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —I thank the senator for his question. In terms of the specific question about how many young carers there are, I cannot help him with that number, so I will take that part of the question on notice—but I know the number is quite large. I have met with some of those carers myself and I have certainly been quite amazed at the responsibilities that so many very young people take on in caring for parents with a disability. It was quite an eye-opener for me when I met with some of them to see the responsibilities they undertook while trying to balance schoolwork and other activities. Unfortunately it means that many of them carry an enormous strain and have trouble maintaining social contacts as a result of their commitments to their caring role and I think it is important that we do as much as we can to support them.

I understand that invitations to the Young Carers Forum were designed to be representative. I do not have a brief on the selection method but I remember seeing press coverage about it and some concerns that young carers were not represented. There was a response, I think, from the Carers Association around the selection. I understand it was considered that those selected were representative of the broader carers group. It is worth noting that the government made a significant commitment in its package released the other day, with a large amount of financial assistance to support carers as recognition of the continuing economic pressure they face in addition to all the other responsibilities and pressures that they confront. I was very pleased to see that the package we brought in sought to address some of those financial pressures for them, but obviously the issues they confront are much broader than just financial. I think all senators would be supportive of whatever help we can provide to these quite amazing young people. If there is further information I can get on how the selection process occurred, I will get that for the senator. As I say, my only knowledge of it is from reading a newspaper report. I will take those parts of the question on notice and see if I can get him an answer.

Senator BARNETT —Mr President, I thank the minister for agreeing to take parts of the question on notice and I ask a supplementary question. What financial support do families relying on very young carers receive from the $10.4 billion package announced on Tuesday?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —I will have to check all of the impacts on various carers because it does depend on what particular circumstances those persons are in. It is the case that persons who are receiving carer allowance will receive $1,000 extra for each eligible person being cared for. As with the other payments, they will be delivered in the fortnight commencing 8 December. The $1,000 lump sum payment will go to those carers receiving the carers allowance for each eligible person being cared for.