Did you know that today marks the start of National Carers Week? It’s a week dedicated to unpaid carers, Australia-wide, who tirelessly provide support to loved ones, family and friends.
Australia’s 2.7 million carers contribute immensely to the lives of those they care for, as well as the unpaid work they perform being valued at $60.3 billion, annually. Research also shows that 1 in 10 Queenslanders perform a caring role.
This week, Carers Australia look to help educate and raise awareness about the diversity of carers and their roles. One of the key foci of this week is that anyone, at any time, can become a carer. This need could arise from a huge range of situations and it’s not just older family members stepping into these roles, there is also a large number of young carers (under the ages of 25), balancing school or university, work, life and a caring role.
This initiative isn’t just for carers and those they care for, it’s a week that encourages everyone to get involved and develop a deeper understanding of what different caring roles look like – and who around us may in fact be one of Australia’s many unpaid carers.
As a part of the week, Carers Queensland (and Carers Australia) are encouraging the community to Make a Pledge and say a resounding thank-you to all the carers stepping up, every day.
While it’s an important week to pause and recognise the incredible work that unpaid carers (and all carers for that matter) perform week in, week out, it’s also a time to raise awareness about the ongoing struggles faced by unpaid carers – most critically the financial challenges.
Research unpacked by SBS late last year shows that the median income of carers is 42% lower than the income of non-carers, and a shockingly large number of carers live below the poverty line. This is also reflected in employment rates, with 56% of carers participating in the workforce, in contrast to 80% of non-carers.
As well as this, many carers face increased financial pressure in other ways – such as expensive medical treatment, aids and transport for those they care for. Many unpaid carers have to leave the workforce, unable to balance their caring role and formal employment – for some this isn’t an option, and due to the lack of understanding of the roles carers have to fulfil, this balancing act leads to even more pressure.
For some, caring and work isn’t possible. With demanding full-time caring roles for those they love, entering the workforce would only increase the suffering of those they care for. However, should this mean they are left behind, left to struggle financially because they care for those they love?
This is an important question and one that unfortunately often stays in the shadows, with a lack of open dialogue about caring roles and the challenges faced by unpaid carers, and their families.
Due to the nature of our work we see the aftermath of accidents and injuries and the injured individuals requiring care from their loved ones – both short and long term. In some instances this sees a partner or other family member step into a full-time caring role, likely for the rest of their lives together.
We only wish that this type of financial assist, or something greater than what is currently available could be provided to all unpaid carers and their loved ones.