|Who is a Working Carer?|
|Tuesday, 28 June 2005 10:00|
They are ‘out there’ in their tens of thousands…..people who work and also look after a child, relative or friend in need of help because they are ill, frail, have a disability or are ageing, however many people do not identify as a working carer. This article not only defines working carers but has information about the benefits and support available to this growing demographic.
Working carers are those who do unpaid caring work for two or more hours per week and also have casual, part-time or full-time paid employment, or are self-employed.
Working carers may be family members, parents, partners, significant others, friends or neighbours. Caring is a natural part of life and all people will either provide or require care at some stage of their life. The Commonwealth Carer Resource Centre estimates that one in five Australian families is providing support to children or adults who have a disability, mental illness, chronic condition or who are frail aged.
The tasks carers do may include emotional support, housework, personal care (eg. assistance with bathing, dressing, toileting, eating and personal grooming), meals, transport, medication support, financial assistance and social support. Caring relationships might begin at the birth of a child with a disability, suddenly as the result of an accident, or over time as an illness or medical condition worsens.
Some examples of working carers might be:
Many carers look after more than one person. Working carers may live with the person they care for, or live separately. They are all ages, men and women, from diverse backgrounds, and they live all over NSW. They may face geographical isolation from services in a rural or remote area, and they may lack emotional support from friends and family. Conservative estimates based on Australian Bureau of Statistics figures put the number of working carers in NSW at 312,664. However, as it is widely known that most people who care for others do not identify themselves as ‘carers’, the actual number could be much higher.
National and international research shows that carers, in particular women, are more likely to work part time, earn less than the average wage, and have poorer health than that of the general population. They often have higher living expenses. They want and need to work. Women especially are less likely to leave the workforce to care than they have been in the past, preferring to combine paid work and care. As a result it is expected that the number of working carers will increase in the future. Work is not only an important source of income, but provides social contact and an identity other than that of ‘carer’. Working carers may fear that they will falter under the weight of caring, or that they will lose their job or have to give it up because of their caring commitments.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates that that the unpaid caring working carers and other carers do saves the NSW Government $6 billion a year. Working carers deserve recognition, respect, services and support to achieve balance in their work and family life and caring commitments.
Working Carers Support Gateway: online news, information and support for working carers