The appeal comes in response to the Intergenerational Report recently unveiled by Treasurer Jim Chalmers, forecasting a nearly twofold expansion of Australia’s care economy over the next four decades.
In 2020, an astounding 2.65 million carers dedicated approximately 2.2 billion hours to unpaid caregiving, equating to an estimated cost of $77.9 billion if they paid for their services. While the significance of paid care and support workers is undeniable, it is equally imperative to acknowledge and adequately support unpaid carers for their pivotal role in caregiving.
Alison Brook, CEO of Carers Australia, emphasised, “Carers are an integral part of Australia’s health, mental health, aged care, disability and social services systems.”
This sentiment has been reinforced by various commissions, including the Aged Care Royal Commission and the Disability Royal Commission. Recognising the plight of many carers who are overworked, under-recognised and under-supported, Brook calls for immediate action to prevent them from being left behind in the expanding care economy.
The ongoing House of Representatives Inquiry into the recognition of unpaid carers presents an opportunity that must be seized to prioritise their vital contributions.
The Intergenerational Report underscores the escalating costs of the care economy due to changing demographics. As the ageing population grows, so does the need for care and support services. In light of this, the integral role of unpaid carers in providing care to a burgeoning population gains prominence.
Notably, those caring for multiple individuals face exacerbated physical and mental health challenges. Insights from Carers Australia’s Carer Wellbeing Surveys reveal that carers responsible for more than one person exhibit significantly lower levels of well-being. Additionally, psychological distress increases with the number of cared-for individuals.
Financial stress is also a prevalent concern among carers, with escalating stress levels corresponding to the number of individuals they care for. A staggering 75% of carers tending to three or more people reported experiencing financial stress.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers acknowledged the significance of the care sector in Australia’s economy, stating, “The care sector is where the lion’s share of opportunities in our economy will be created.” However, Carers Australia urges immediate attention to the vital contributions of unpaid carers who, often silently, contribute to both the economy and social structures.
The organisation calls on Treasurer Chalmers and the government to commence recognising and supporting unpaid carers, who contribute significantly despite personal sacrifices. As Australia’s care economy burges, ensuring the well-being of unpaid carers becomes an essential component of our collective progress.