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Matters of State - Carers

Friday, June 15, 2012

Looking after someone's every need, usually unpaid, probably on duty around the clock, surely attracts only saints to apply for the job. Yet it is fact that three in five of us will be a carer at some point in our lives. Carers put their lives on hold to support some of the most vulnerable people in our community and they do it because they care.  Visiting the Orana Early Childhood Centre in Dubbo recently gave me reason to reflect upon the role of carers and how much poorer society would be in their absence. While participating in a sing along with the children, staff and parents at the centre I caught a glimpse of what life must be like for a great many families in our community who cope with the additional challenges posed with caring for special needs children. Of course caring can take a number of forms with childcare and disability care among the most common. However it is the care provided to the aged and those suffering with a mental illness that perhaps brings with it the greater burden of responsibility. For instance the personal cost of caring for a loved one with mental illness was highlighted in a new study of 1000 carers by Wesley Mission released recently. It surprised me to learn that almost 90 per cent of the carers report a harmful effect on their own physical and mental health and three in four report adverse effects on relationships with family and friends. Almost 60 per cent said their employment and financial situation had deteriorated. These statistics highlight to me that carers must be acknowledged, supported and appreciated for their work. Working with people with a mental illness and supporting their families and carers is pivotal to achieving strong outcomes in mental health care. Research shows supporting carers benefits consumers, including enhancing the effectiveness of service delivery, decreasing hospital admissions and reducing relapse rates. Last year the NSW Liberals & Nationals Government delivered the largest increase in funding for mental health in the state’s history. The NSW Government spent $1.34 billion on mental health services in 2011-12, an increase of $109 million - or 8.8 per cent - on the previous year.  One way of acknowledging this important role is the public recognition provided to those many unsung heroes in the community, through the NSW Carers Awards. The hard work of carers often goes unnoticed, but this is one way for the community to recognise the incredible sacrifices they make. The categories for the awards include Individual carer; Carer support group; Supporting Working Carers – Government sector; Supporting Working Carers – Non-government organisation; Supporting Working Carers – Private sector; Supporting Young Carers – Primary/secondary school; Supporting Young Carers – Tertiary education provider; Supporting Young Carers – Non-government organisation and Supporting Young Carers – Government agency. Nominations can be made online at until Friday 15 July 2012.  Carer's awards will be presented announced during NSW Carers Week on Sunday 14 October to Saturday 20 October. A special event will be held on Monday, 15 October at NSW Parliament for the major recipients.



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