Welcome to the latest edition of the Work 'n' Care newsletter. Each month we try and bring you stories that embody all aspects of a carers life. Our aim is to empower you in your caring role and to make your life a little easier. Contact us with your experiences and ideas as the process of sharing can make a carers life just that little bit easier. Read the latest edition below or use the links on the right to navigate our story archives.

 

Have a good mood day

 

There are lots of little things which can make you happy and productive at the same time.

Good Mood Smiley

There are lots of little things which can make you happy and productive at the same time.

Seeing as you spend up to eight hours a day at work, it is worth thinking about the many things – including good habits and attitudes – that have the power to lift your spirits.

Whether it's taking a few minutes to dive deep into your favourite novel, keeping a daily gratitude journal, or spending some time in nature (even if it is just observing a plant growing on the pavement) there is plenty to include in your day-to-day life that can help set your mood and ensure you have a good working day.

Here are some great ‘good mood setters’ we have found for you!

Take care of personal business

Check with your boss if you can leave the office whenever you have personal business to take care of – this will give you a sense of empowerment through being able to achieve a happy work/life balance.

Be a sociable colleague

Smile! Say hello to everyone at work, but don’t stand there talking forever! People have work to do and they will feel annoyed if you keep them away from important tasks. It’s a balancing act – happy, sociable colleagues can make the world of difference to a working environment. Don’t be afraid to give someone a hug when they need it.

Find a mentor

Everyone needs someone who can inspire them and can give them wise advice. Pick someone who has been around for a while and who is successful. Ask them if they will be your mentor for a set period – say three months. Don’t overburden them or expect them to solve your problems. A wise mentor will help develop your self-confidence and that will make you happier and more in control.

Brainstorm

Brainstorm often. A brainstorming session can bring to the surface all the creativity of which you are capable. Look for the ‘nuggets’ that come out of these sessions and apply them. You will feel chuffed.

Learn something new each day

Whether it’s keeping up on current events, a new hobby or interest, or simply any new idea, taking a small amount of time to learn something new every day is a great way to add to your personal knowledge base. It helps you feel good about yourself and gives you something to share when you get home.

Smoothie, tea or coffee – tasty and energising

Your fav smoothie, a tasty earl grey tea or an energising coffee, milo, cocoa can be the reason you keep bright and cheery at the office when everything seems to be going haywire.

Nourishing lunches

The lunch break is an important refuelling stop. Take the time in the morning or the night before to make something nourishing. Choose protein and salad or vegetables over carbohydrates like grains, which can make you sluggish and tired. You will feel more energised.

Chill out with music

Chill out music for quiet days, favourite classics, thumping rap – what’s your fav? But don a set of headphones so you don’t disturb others at work.

Yummy sweet or savoury

Bring some sweets or savouries to share with your colleagues. Home-baked is always a treat, but cheese and biccies makes a welcome change.

Breastfeeding mums at work

 

Miriam is a friend and a single mother, presently on maternity leave from her job as a mid-level manager in information technology.

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Breastfeeding

Miriam is a friend and a single mother, presently on maternity leave from her job as a mid-level manager in information technology.

She now faces a heartbreaking situation. Her two-months-old son, Jamie, born six weeks prematurely, has respiratory and developmental difficulties that require her constant attention.

What is she to do at the end of her maternity leave time? To employ a properly qualified nurse to look after Jamie while she’s at work would cost a lot more than she can afford. Must she abandon her career and become a welfare mum?

A couple of weeks ago, there was a glimmer of hope for Miriam and other mothers trapped in similar situations.

Baby breast-fed during Cabinet deliberations

It came in no less a place than the Federal Government’s Cabinet Room, not through a proposal for legislation but because a Cabinet Minister brought her baby son with her into the meeting and actually breast-fed him during the Cabinet’s deliberations.

And before that, in June, a Greens Senator, Larissa Waters, made headlines when she breastfed her baby while the Senate was in session and in fact moved a motion while she was doing so.

Maybe these two occurrences bespeak a change in attitude that might spread to the wider workplace environment. And it is attitudes that need most to be changed, not matters of practicality, as Revenue and Financial Services Minister Kelly O'Dwyer demonstrated.

She fetched baby Edward’s cot into her office and installed it alongside her desk and used headphones so she could work the telephones while breast-feeding or holding him in her arms.

CEO will tell his executives it can be done

This was the scene that greeted the CEO of one of the major banks when he turned up at Ms O’Dwyer’s office for a meeting. “He was surprised, but not in a bad way,” she told Fairfax Media.

In fact, the CEO agreed to having photographs taken and said he’d use them to demonstrate to his own executives that it could be done.

“I’ve always been pretty efficient with my time,” said Ms O’Dwyer, who was also Acting Treasurer at the time.

Edward set a precedent for his presence at Cabinet meetings as a newborn, attending by teleconference from Melbourne. Then, at the ripe old age of three months, he made his ‘live’ debut in the Cabinet Room in Canberra and received a cuddle from the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

Ms O’Dwyer has an advantage few other women enjoy. Her husband has been able to take extended leave to take care of Edward and his older sister, Olivia, who is two.

Miriam and others like her don’t have that way out of the work-care dilemma.

Ms O’Dwyer used the publicity surrounding Edward’s Cabinet meeting attendance to emphasise the need for the Liberal Party to pre-select women for ‘winnable’ seats.

She said it was ‘vitally important’ that women had role models in parliament: “Particularly women of different backgrounds and different experiences. I think that people need to see there is a career for them, and they can continue to be a mother or choose to be a mother.”

Surely the same principles should apply in all the work environment generally, not just in politics.

Death of empathy – the technology generation gap

Has social media and technology spawned a culture of indifference to the welfare of other people?

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Social Media

So many splendid channels for communication has technology and social media afforded us. But it has a most misfortunate side-effect: it spawns a culture of indifference to the welfare of other people.

This especially includes marginalised groups, such as working carers, older people, people with disability, Indigenous people, and those from a low socio-economic background.

These days, a lot of people are closer to their ‘devices’ than they are to their fellow humans.

Two tragic stories last month underscored the proliferation of this tendency.

In Sydney’s northern beaches area, in an ocean-views home on a busy Palm Beach street, an elderly couple lay dead for weeks before anyone thought to wonder why they hadn’t been sighted lately.

Teenagers film and laugh at drowning man

And in Florida, USA, a group of teenagers shot video of a man with disability who was drowning in a lake, and taunted him as he struggled and screamed for help. Then they posted the footage on Facebook.

Jamel Dunn, 31, a father of two who walked with a cane, got into difficulties in a lake in a place called Cocoa just south of Cape Canaveral and the John F. Kennedy Space Centre. A group of five kids, aged 14 to 16, saw him and started shooting video of him struggling and screaming for help and of themselves enjoying the spectacle and laughing.

They didn’t respond to his cries for help. Nor did they lodge a 911 call. Instead, they taunted Mr Dunn, telling him he was about to die. When he failed to come up the last time, one of them declared: “Oh, he just died.” Which cracked them all up. Then they posted the video and it went viral on the internet.

The body wasn’t recovered until three days later when a friend of the Dunn family saw the video and called the police.

This was happening a few miles from the site of one of technology’s greatest triumphs, the launching of the Apollo 11 mission that put men on the moon.

Have a real conversation with your elderly neighbour

Facebook figured, too, in the Palm Beach story. After the bodies of Geoffrey Iddon, 82, and his wife, Anne, 81, were discovered, the NSW Police Northern Beaches Local Command put up a post: Time to put down those iPhones and iPads … and have a real conversation with your elderly neighbour.

The cruel irony in the Iddon case is that there exists technology by which the alarm might have been raised in time to save Mrs Iddon at least, an arm of that same splendid communications technology that cast such a thrall that nobody took any interest in them for weeks on end.

The Iddons weren’t Facebook people. But they were real human beings. Mrs Iddon was blind and had very little mobility. Mr Iddon, who was apparently in good health, and worked as a volunteer, was her sole carer. They treasured their independence and insisted they needed no outside help.

It appears that Geoffrey died of natural causes some time in June. It isn’t known how long Anne lay there calling for her husband before she died of starvation and dehydration.

A technology generation gap

Superintendent Dave Darcy, who posted the Local Command’s Facebook message called on people to pay more attention to elderly people in their communities.

“I reckon they should get off their Facebook for 20 minutes and spend a bit of time with some older people and get to understand what they’re about,” he told the ABC. “Life is a team game and you need a few other people around you to make sure you’re successful sometimes.”

He points to what might be described as a technology generation gap.

“Our elderly, particularly in that 70s to 80s group, are completely left behind in terms of social media. A friend to them isn’t the click of a button. A friend to them is someone who exchanges eye-contact and genuinely cares about them.”

The Iddons, he said, were “a fiercely independent couple, life-long partners, where the husband was a very good and diligent carer for his wife. They were very resistant to help from health services and medical services.”

As recently as May 4 they had been visited by NSW Community Health officers, but said they needed no assistance.

Another police officer, Superintendent Rob Critchlow of the Hills Local Area Command, who has a focus on the protection of the elderly, said that, in a sense, the Iddons were their own victims.

“It’s a tricky one because they were pretty functional within their own limits. They weren’t being victimised by anyone. They had resources.”

He told the ABC that some experts described that kind of independence as ‘self-actualised abuse’. A failure to seek or accept assistance was “seen medically as a form of abuse but not involving a third party”.

Rob Critchlow told the ABC that there is now alarm technology of high sophistication available to carers of elderly people.

There are sensor devices that pick up movement, or the lack of it. There are GPS-type systems that track the person’s location. It is possible, Superintendent Critchlow said, to put “a virtual fence around an elderly person’s property in case they wander”.

Carers in high demand for foster children

Across Australia, the foster care system is in a state of crisis.

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foster care child fishing

Across Australia, the care of children taken from or abandoned by alcoholic, drug-dependent and/or abusive parents, and the many who run away from home, is a system in a state of crisis.

Since 2007, according to statistics cited by the ABC, the number of children in out-of-home care in NSW has increased by almost 60 per cent, from 11,843 to 18,659. More than 11,000 of these children are aged between eight and 17. And that’s only the visible bit of the iceberg.

Many are in the care of foster parents who are also working carers – but the number of foster carers is at an all-time low.

In all states, there has been a significant decrease in the number of foster carers available, partly because the financial support system has been pruned right back – by up to one-third in some states – and partly because the failures of the system are producing children who are too difficult for even the most dedicated carers to handle.

How and why has it got to this point?

In March, a NSW parliamentary inquiry into the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) reported that there were 79,814 children at risk of serious harm in NSW, but only 24,114 had received the attention of a case-worker – which is less than 30 per cent.

The department received funding for 2128 case-workers, but employed only 2001. The department had a $1.9 billion allocation in the 2016-17 budget, the inquiry found, but only $319,000 was directed to child-protection early-intervention.

The chairman of the committee, Greg Donnelly (Labor), wrote in the introduction to the report: “How can it be that in 2017, in a country as fortunate as Australia, so many children and young people are in harm’s way every day of their lives? How and why has it got to this point?”

The committee recommended an urgent injection of funding for “evidence-based protection and early intervention services.”

The NSW budget in June followed the committee recommendation and made a $63 million injection over four years into the child-protection system. FACS will employ 42 additional front-line case-workers, an additional 66 case-work supply-workers, 23 extra workers on the Child Protection Help Line and 10 more on the Joint Investigation Response Teams.

Some parents don’t deserve to have their children

Children in need of protection will now have a better chance of getting some attention and getting it sooner. The problem remains though: where, with the number of foster carers shrinking, are the children assessed as being at risk going to go if they’re taken from their families?

FACS minister Pru Goward, said. “Child protection is difficult and now we are embarking on world-class reform which will address many of the recommendations and concerns in that report.”

The ‘world-class reforms’ are based on an American model which, according to the former FACS Minister, Brad Hazzard, had reduced the number of children in care in New York City, Illinois and Tennessee, by up to 80 per cent. The key element of the program would be that abusive parents would be given two years to reform their ways or the children would be taken from them and put up for adoption.

“Currently the focus is not on the families that need to change,” Mr Hazzard said. “Children are taken when the families fail and go into care, being moved from pillar to post often until they are 18. Sadly, all too many of them end up in juvenile justice or the correctional system.

“There are some families, some parents who are just so dangerous they don’t deserve to have children, they lose that right. Whereas others just don’t get the parenting aspect. Government agencies will work with you, but if you don’t improve in two years we’re going to have to do something.”

Epidemic of ‘ice’ use to blame

Minster Goward has confessed the system is in crisis. She said the epidemic of ‘ice’ use was partly to blame for the steep increase in the number of children in care but she was hopeful the new early-intervention program would bring numbers down.

“If we could get on top of drug addiction in parents and the violence that comes with it, then I think we could get that trajectory to change direction,” she told the ABC.

Dr Jeremy Sammutt of the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney told the ABC as far back as 2013, four years ago: “We don’t do enough to remove children early enough, so they end up having really high needs, not being able to live in a normal foster home, which encourages carers to drop out because they’re so difficult to care for.

“We’re at a point now where we going to start re-residentialising the care system, with professional carers, particularly mental health professionals, to look after these kids who’ve been damaged.”

Fostering NSW has a full list of foster-care agencies on its website: http://www.fosteringnsw.com.au.

 

School ill-treatment of students with disability

 

Another series of stories has surfaced about the ill-treatment of students with disability in schools.

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Parent Carer Image 2

The ABC’s 7.30 Report ran a story last month on yet another child with disability being mistreated at school.

The student was caged. Another student was bullied so badly at school he became suicidal.

In the first case, Emily Dive has lodged a complaint against the Victorian Education Department with the Australian Human Rights Commission on behalf of her eight-year-old son, Lachlan Murrell, who is autistic and has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Ms Dive, a working carer, claims that Lachlan was held for hours on end in a two-metre square plywood cell with a peephole in the door and no windows. He had been shunted from school to school and a year ago, was expelled for allegedly assaulting a teacher. Lachlan hasn’t set foot in a classroom since.

“He has no self-esteem,” Ms Dive told the 7.30 Report. “He has no self-worth. He has no identity as a student. Socially, he’s missed out on a lot of opportunities and obviously academically as well.”

Complaints taken to Human Right Commission

The Victorian Education Minister, James Merlino, has ordered an independent investigation into the claims.

According to the 7.30 Report, the case is one of six disability discrimination complaints currently before the Human Rights Commission involving allegations of physical restraint, seclusion and exclusion from schools. There are another five cases before the Federal Court. Some involve working carers.

One of the HRC cases involves a young boy with autism who was subjected to bullying so severe he became suicidal. The boy’s parents are claiming that the school did not take adequate measures to ensure that the bullying stopped.

As is so often the case, when the child with disability rebels against their circumstance, it’s them who carry all the blame and shame. The boy in this case was suspended from the school several times and, finally, expelled because of ‘behaviours which were symptoms and manifestations of his disabilities’.

It is never admitted that ‘behaviours’ might be symptoms and manifestations of a failing system.

According to Julie Phillips of Disability Discrimination Legal Service Inc in Melbourne, state governments across Australia are doing nothing to rectify situations like the ones in the above two examples.

“I would hope that the conversations we’re having now strike a chord with departments of education because they tend to ignore all the evidence that the system is broken … Instead of thinking about ‘what shall we do with these kids, where shall we put them? [they should] concentrate more on resourcing the schools.”

Children with disability paying for inadequate system

As it is, it’s children with disability, their families – many of whom are working carers – who are paying the price for inadequacies in the education system.

A starting point for an effort to fix the ‘broken’ system would be recognition of the fact that a student who is ‘different’ may very well need someone to mediate between him/her and the system, to intercept and divert behaviours which are ‘symptoms and manifestations of his disabilities’.

The system needs to employ and train specialist educators and teacher-aides to guide children coming from segregated environments on their entry into the strange, and very often unwelcoming, new world of mainstream education.

Attitudes need to be corrected. Aides and teachers too need to understand that the presence of a student who is different can benefit the whole class, particularly in the matter of tolerance and charity. And that surely must be a plus in a world where there is so much hostility to ‘otherness’.

The authorities commanding the system need to realise that positive outcomes are possible. Certainly, they cannot be achieved by putting kids in cages or cells.

Australian Human Rights Commission:

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Level 3, 175 Pitt Street, SYDNEY NSW 2000

GPO Box 5218, SYDNEY NSW 2001

Telephone: (02) 9284 9600
National Information Service: 1300 656 419
General enquiries and publications: 1300 369 711
TTY: 1800 620 241

The NSW Disability Discrimination Legal Centre provides free information, advice and representation in relation to disability discrimination law for people with a disability, their associates, disability organisations and community legal centres. The centre employs a full-time solicitor assisted by volunteer law students.

Phone: (02) 9310 7722

1800 800 708

Text Telephone Number: (02) 9313 4320

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Website: http://www.ddlcnsw.org.au

Postal Address: PO Box 989, STRAWBERRY HILLS, 2012