Ray Martin and Carer Gateway

Broadcasting great, Ray Martin, joined us this month to share how Australia’s 2.65 million unpaid carers can find support for their caring role with Carer Gateway.

Carer Gateway services have been designed for carers and can help with the daily challenges, and emotional and financial stresses that you may experience as a carer. Although some of the in-person services have been impacted due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), a range of other support services are still available.

Check out Ray’s videos here and then visit the Carer Gateway here or by calling 1800 422 737 Monday to Friday between 8am and 5pm.


Survey of family and friend carers reveals them doing it very tough during COVID-19 pandemic

A new study has found that while the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences have impacted negatively on many Australians, unpaid carers have faced a higher level of challenges to their finances and wellbeing.

The study from the Caring Fairly campaign found that 42 percent of unpaid carers surveyed had lost some or all regular income since the COVID-19 outbreak, and 86 percent were now spending more money on living costs. The report also found 60 percent of unpaid carers had lost supports for the person they care for.

The Government has made it clear that the $550 per fortnight Coronavirus Supplement, which has been made available to many income support recipients, will not be added to pensions such as the Carer Payment and the Disability Support Pension. This is on the grounds that the Supplement has been introduced to support people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic.

“While it is true that people on pensions are generally not in employment, or only partially, this does not mean that changes to their financial situation does not impact heavily on unpaid carers,” said Carers Australia Interim CEO Mary Reid.

“Against this background we recommend that, at the very least, the Government should seriously consider adding a third $750 lump sum payment to support people on the Carer Payment.”


ACT legislation to protect vulnerable Canberrans

Carers Australia has joined Carers ACT to voice their support for legislation aimed at protecting aged people and people with disability against abuse in the ACT. However, immediate referral of those suspected of abuse to the criminal justice system is in many cases neither an appropriate nor effective approach to dealing with these circumstances.

“We do acknowledge that there are cases where carers abuse or financially exploit those they are caring for, although the evidence we are aware of indicates that this is not common. Moreover, often such behaviour arises through ignorance or is a by-product of the carer being subject to extraordinary stress over a very long period,” said CEO of Carers ACT Lisa Kelly.

Mary Reid, Interim CEO of Carers Australia, notes that Carers Australia has done a great deal of research into Elder Abuse.

“Abuse and exploitation is most likely to occur where it is part of a historical or current family pattern of behaviour or, especially in the case of financial exploitation, where the carer has a substance abuse problem,” she said.


COVID-19 information for carers

While restrictions around Australia continue to ease, many carers are facing uncertainty about the new normal in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of our ongoing advocacy for carers, Carers Australia is continuing to update our information page of COVID-19 advice for carers.

It includes information on reducing transmission, NDIS information and social security annoucements. Throughout the pandemic we will continue to monitor the situation and provide credible updates for carers.

You can access the page here.


Funding to support carers of people with mental illness during the pandemic appreciated

The Government has announced this month that $3.5 million would be made available to support family and friend mental health carers under the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan.

Although the coronavirus and the steps needed to contain its spread have affected many unpaid carers, carers of people with challenging behaviours and cognitive disorders frequently face additional challenges.

“As social isolation causes people with mental illness to become disconnected from the services which support them, and mental health is also impacted by isolation from friends and community, family and friend carers have had to fill in the gaps,” said Carers Australia Interim CEO Mary Reid.

“They are likely to need more support now than ever before, which is why an injection of funding to provide such support is particularly welcome.”


New Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19

With many aged care homes restricting visits from family and friends, residents and their families have been greatly distressed by these preventative measures. This is especially true where aged care homes have banned visitors even though there are no cases of coronavirus within the facility.

Carers Australia has received many reports from carers that the impact of significant changes to daily routines and visitors are negatively affecting the physical and emotional health of their loved one. Given that up to 90 percent of aged care residents live with cognitive decline, this is very worrying.

We know that carers want what’s best for their loved ones, which is why Carers Australia has been involved in drafting the new Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19. This work was undertaken by Carers Australia and 12 other peak consumer and aged care provider bodies.

The Code ensures transparency and accountability by aged care facilities. Other measures include:

• All staff and visitors must have current flu vaccinations and adhere to infection control measures including frequent hand washing and sanitising.
• Visitors agree not to enter the aged care facility if they are showing symptoms of cold, flu, respiratory infection or coronavirus.
• Aged care providers must provide frequent communications with families and guardians about infection control, outbreaks and visiting arrangements
• Efforts must be made to ensure that residents are able to communicate with loved ones through assisted phone calls; and
• The notification to health authorities, residents, guardians and families of a resident or staff member returning a positive COVID-19 test.
• A complaints mechanism for carers to use, if the aged care facility does not address concerns relating to visits.

If upon raising concerns with the aged care facility they are not addressed, carers and residents can call the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) 1800 700 600 to receive support and advice from a trained advocate. If this does not resolve the issue, or you are unhappy with the aged care facility at any time, you can make a complaint to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission by calling 1800 951 822 at any time.


Young Carers Connect

Over the past four weeks, our Young Carers Team has rolled out the Young Carers Connect initiative. It’s a forum where young carers can connect with others, discuss specific topics, and share how they are feeling during the COVID-19 pandemic. All the participating young carers were registered with the Young Carers Network and aged between 13-25.

The response to Young Carers Connect exceeded our expectations. During the discussions, the Young Carers Team found out a little bit about our young carers which they’d like to share:

• Many are missing school and their friends, but others are happy not to be at school because of bullying.
• Studying from home can have frequent interruptions and there are ongoing distractions.
• Sleep continues to be interrupted as those they are caring for need to be regularly checked on or routines have changed.
• Many play a musical instrument ranging from guitar, bass violin, keyboard and piano.
• One of our young carers makes his own music using software and plug ins.
• Another writes her own songs and we have some talented singers.
• Skate boarding and basketball is a common interest.
• We got to see some origami made by one of our talented young carers.
• They have shared who they have been able to see and we had a great laugh about toilet paper shortage.
• They all love animals and many have pets who have joined us during the chats.

The Young Carers Team would love to continue the online chat forum and would like to invite other young carers to join. They will be changing the times of the chats to suit those who are now back at school, have other commitments or are in a different time zone. Check out the Young Carers Network for the next Young Carers Connect event.

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