David Militz, Carers SA CEO

Carers often find themselves wedged between a number of government and private systems that are designed to support them and the person they are caring for. This has been the case for many years but it seems to have escalated in recent times because of the large scale changes to aged care and disability.

The changes to aged care and disability are well documented with carers having to cope with RAS (Regional Assessment Service) assessments, but assessments in aged care aren’t new. It is the understanding of My Aged Care and the many many phone calls from providers once your RAS assessment has been completed that have been hard to understand for people.

The NDIS has been more difficult for carers to comprehend because it really wasn’t clear where they sat in the Scheme and the language was new so it has taken time to decipher how to get the best out of it for the person they care for and how it could possibly benefit them. Let me be clear more often than not carers don’t even consider themselves in the process. It is a new system and people are still fearful of it and hopefully Carers SA and other organisations can continue to do the mostly unfunded work of educating families about the benefits of the system and believe me there are plenty. You just have to know how to access them!

The story that really hasn’t been broadcast widely is the upheaval that federally funded carer services will be undergoing in the next 12-18 months. Quite rightly the Department of Social Services (DSS) has determined that the current service system is fragmented and needs to be overhauled and a central point of access for carers be created.

Does this sound familiar?

And yes you wouldn’t be surprised that a gateway and a contact centre have been set up forming the basis of the Integrated Carer Support Service system, or ICSS (we got sick of saying it in its longer form). Forgetting the sarcasm I am very pleased there will be a central entry point for carers as it recognises carers in their own right. Also let me extoll the virtues of DSS’s co-design process that I was involved in, we truly were listened to (the most I have experienced in my short career) and as a result were able to affect some change within the proposed service model. Importantly all of the supports currently provided to carers will be in the model as will some shiny new ones. DSS has put ICSS out for public consultation twice already and is expected to transition to parts of the new model in July 2018.

There are challenges here for everyone, firstly ICSS will support carers of all ages, a big change as DSS funding supported carers of people over 65 previously. Yes you are right that the State Government provides funding to support carers of people under 65 and yes you are also right that the state is now considering whether it should duplicate services or not. This is a natural reaction and it hasn’t surprised us so we have been working closely with the state on this matter for some time.

There is also the little complication of our funding being caught up in ongoing discussions or clear cut decisions to provide, at both the state and federal levels, part of each government’s co-contribution to the NDIS. We have lost money already and are working hard advocating to government but have also reduced costs this financial year without significantly affecting services to carers.

With a state election looming early next year and systemic changes on the horizon, the coming months will be vital for Carers SA. We will continue to work closely with our good friends to secure sufficient funding for services for carers. We are working closely with the National Network of Carer Associations and locally with the Carer Support Network of SA (Northern Carers Network, Carer Support, SA Country Carers, Carers & Disability Link). It is hoped we can continue to, along with our partners, push both levels of government to ensure carers are still front of mind. Carers are vital to the community considering it would take $60.3bn annually to replace what they do.

Watch this space as we could be coming asking for your support in getting our message to government in the very near future.

David Militz
Carers SA CEO