“A report in the Weekend Australian that the yet-to-be-released McClure Review of Social Welfare will propose that carers on the Carer Payment will be targeted for workforce participation requirements raises alarm bells. However, before the actual interim report is released, we do not know exactly what this means,” said Ara Cresswell, CEO of Carers Australia.
“If they mean that new, impossibly tight eligibility or participation criteria for the Carer Payment or Carer Allowance will be applied to people providing substantial care to someone with a disability, a mental illness or who is frail aged, we would be appalled and outraged,” said Ms Cresswell.
Eligibility for both the Carer Payment and Carer Allowance is already very tight. A carer in receipt of the Carer Payment must personally provide constant care in the home to someone with a disability or medical condition, or who is frail aged. They must also meet income and assets tests. In addition, the person they care for must qualify under the Adult Disability Assessment Determination or the Disability Care Load Assessment for children, have a condition which is long-term and also meet income and assets tests.
“Anyone who meets these requirements is extremely unlikely to be in a position to work in anything other than an occasional casual capacity, and their opportunities to engage in training or education will also be very limited,” said Ms Cresswell.
“Indeed, the way in which the Carer Payment is currently administered makes it next to impossible for these carers to engage in any kind of work or significant study without losing the Carer Payment.
“Carers Australia has long advocated that carers on the Carer Payment should be able to undertake modest paid employment or education and training without losing their Carer Payment in order to stay skilled and maintain an employment record, so that they are not condemned to a permanent future on income support once their caring role has come to an end.
“We have also long advocated that Government should provide additional support of the kind available to other disadvantaged groups, to assist long-time carers to re-engage in employment when the person they care for has died or moved to another care environment.”
Ms Cresswell assured carers that Carers Australia will be making a considered and robust response to options raised in the Social Welfare Review Discussion paper when it is finally released.
“This includes the point that, on 2010 estimates, the replacement costs of unpaid care was estimated to be over $40.9 billion, or 3.5% of GDP.
“Unpaid carers already make a significant economic contribution. Using the Government’s words, they are in every sense lifters not leaners.
“The fact that the number of people in receipt of the Carer Payment is said to be rising by 10% per year should come as no surprise to anyone. We have a rapidly ageing population and there is also a rise in the number of people with disabilities. The options are that these people are either cared for in the community or in institutions. Guess which costs the taxpayer less?”