The NSW Government introduced the NSW Carers (Recognition) Act in 2010 to improve the recognition of carers and to acknowledge the valuable contribution carers make to our community and to the people they care for:
The Act established a Carers Charter which outlines principles to help staff understand and respond to the needs of carers.
Under the Act, human service agencies (such as Local Health Districts) have obligations to:
- Ensure staff are aware of and understand the Act and its Charter
- Consult with carers about policy that affects them
- Support staff who are carers
- Ensure that staff take action to reflect the principles of the Carers Charter
- Report annually on compliance with the Act.
The NSW Carers Charter encourages staff to:
- Recognise carers’ valuable contribution to the people they care for and their community by:
- listening to carers and the people they care for
- respecting and acknowledging carers’ unique knowledge and expertise by including them in decision-making – taking into account their views and needs in the assessment, planning, delivery and review of services for the person they are caring for.
Support carers by:
- being mindful of carers’ health and wellbeing and finding out what support and services carers need
- giving carers information about services that will sustain them in their caring role
- recognising and supporting the choices carers make in their caring role
- recognising and acknowledging carers’ diversity (including cultural background, age, disability)
NSW Carers Charter:
The NSW Health Carers (Recognition) Act Implementation Plan (CAIP) 2013 – 2016 (Implementation Plan) has been developed by Integrated Care Branch (IC), NSW Ministry of Health in consultation with the NSW Health Carers (Recognition) Act Implementation Steering Committee, Local Health District Carers Program Managers and sectors across NSW Health including the Local Health Districts, Speciality Networks and statutory Health Corporations.
The Carer Program ensures that the Charter and strategies within the (CAIP) 2013 – 2016 plan are implemented and carried out through a consultative framework involving internal and external stakeholders. The strategies in the plan are broad and encompass geographic and demographic differences. They relate to the universal needs and challenges of carers and the acute health care system, as well as addressing systemic changes.
The Carer Program provides consultancy services to health service management and staff regarding legislative requirements, policy directives, policy development, anti-discrimination, dispute resolution, privacy issues, projects, education, promotions, systems analysis, research, planning and best practice relating to working with carers as partners in care. The Carer Program also networks with and provides consultancy to relevant external agencies such as Carers NSW and the Commonwealth Respite & Carelink Centres and Ageing Disability and Home Care (ADHC).
The Carer Program Staff
The role involves the implementation of proactive, sustainable networking systems within the MNC LHD with an emphasis on working collaboratively with key stakeholders, including health professionals, government and non–government service providers and the caring community. The main focus of the position is on:
- strategic systems development rather than on the provision of direct client services to carers;
- building networks and relationships with carer groups and service providers; and
- developing local collaborative initiatives to enhance relationships with carers.
Through staff education, community expos and media promotions, Carer Program staff aim to enhance the capacity of health clinicians to work in partnership with carers.
Carers as Partners in Care
In 2010 Carers Australia commissioned Access Economics to undertake the second Australian study of the economic value of the informal care provided by unpaid family carers for people with disability, mental illness, chronic conditions, terminal illness and the frail aged. That report found that ‘the value of informal care has increased to exceed $40 billion per annum in 2010, 33% higher than in 2005.
Despite carers often finding the role fulfilling and rewarding the report found that ‘the valuable contribution of Australia’s 2.9 million carers, which enables their loved ones to remain at home, comes at a health cost to carers themselves’. Furthermore, the report illustrates ‘the extent of the burden of caring‐related conditions such as depression, stress‐related illness, sleep deprivation and musculoskeletal problems.
Early identification and education of potentially ‘hidden carers’ can reduce the health and financial impact for carers, e.g. the report found that ‘young carers also make enormous sacrifices, giving up what can be millions of dollars of lifetime earnings in order to provide the care that their parents need.
Similarly the report supports acknowledgement and recognition of carers as partners in care, given that ‘informal family care remains one of the lowest subsidised forms of care, and family carers remain under‐resourced in terms of education and information compared to paid care workers.