National Carers Week is a time of mixed emotions for many carers of people with disabilities. On the one hand the NDIS has opened up many opportunities for the people who they support. Others are finding the NDIS has left them with fewer supports.

Carers are often financially disadvantaged – many are single parents (an all too common situation where disability is concerned) or have been unable to participate in the workforce because of their care responsibilities – plus they have the added financial strain of extra medical and specialised equipment expenses.

Carers/parents are the lynch pin that holds everything together in the care of a person with a disability. They need to feel supported. They need some time out to rejuvenate and de-stress. Their mental, and physical, well-being is crucial to ‘keeping it all together’. By cutting them out of the system their contribution is receiving no recognition or validity and we are leading to the possibility of breakdown in those care relationships.

That is why IOE has pledged to continue to provide, and build on, our programs that support all family members, not just the person with a disability. Unfortunately IOE has never received any government funding to run these programs.

Before NDIS, carers could apply to various organisations for funding to enable them to participate in IOE’s family and carer support programs. However, once transition to an NDIS plan has been made, this funding avenue is no longer available, leaving many carers with the dilemma of whether they can afford to pay for respite for themselves.

The lack of Government support for carers has become of increasing concern for Carers organisations across Australia – and they are mounting a growing push to get governments to recognise the plight of carers and to take positive action to support them.

The message may be getting through – there may be some light ahead – at least for Victorian carers.

Recently the Victorian Andrews Labor party announced that if re-elected they intend to allocate $49.5 million to fund an extra 100,000 hours of respite care each year through the Support for Carers program, and expand eligibility to include carers of people with a mental illness.

This will allow an extra 5,000 Victorians to access respite care, giving carers the peace of mind that their loved one is receiving high quality care, while they get a break and take some time to look after themselves. They will also provide $4 million in grants funding for carer support groups and projects across the state. The announcement was made at the home of Interchange parent and carer, Hannah Lee, who is passionate about carers’ rights and heavily involved with Carers Victoria. Labor’s announcement was made by Gabrielle Williams M.P., State Member for Dandenong and the Parliamentary Secretary for Health, and the Parliamentary Secretary for Carers and Volunteers. Also present was Interchange parent and co-founder of the Different Journeys ASD groups, Mel Spencer who reported on the concerns of the many carers she come in contact with and Carers Victoria CEO, President and General Manager.

‘For thousands of Victorians caring for a loved one is 24/7 job – and they deserve a hand. Only Labor will ensure they get the time out and practical support they need.’ Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria.

Definitely food for thought as we ‘celebrate’ National Carers Week 2018. We now need to give carers themselves, something to celebrate!

Read the full media release HERE