Unpaid carers save the federal government almost $78 billion per year.
Yet, these carers (family members or friends supporting someone with an illness or disability) often sacrifice their own physical, emotional, social, and financial wellbeing to ensure the person they love is well cared for.
Kristine Rawlinson, carer for her husband and son, and Carers Project Manager with Neighbourhood Houses Victoria, believes that existing carer supports are missing the mark.
“There is a multimillion-dollar carers industry which uses a top-down approach to give handouts to carers, based on a model where they must jump through multiple hoops and tell their traumatic story repeatedly. Then, getting access to these supports involves waiting periods and a finite and prescriptive menu of offerings including petrol and supermarket vouchers, cleaning, and home maintenance. Although these are helpful supports that you wouldn’t refuse, they don’t address the main issues affecting carers. Carers are broke. They are unwell, they are missing out on opportunities for social interaction, and they are left unable to pursue their own personal and professional aspirations.”
Kristine meets carers all over Victoria and they tell her that the current supports don’t improve their lives. Indeed, they tell her that the existing approaches to supporting carers feel like a token response and leave carers feeling that they are of less value than other community members. “Carers should not have to ask for handouts, nor do they want to. Carers value human connection and help navigating carer services. They want to be respected and valued for all they do, often not out of choice but out of necessity.”
In response, Neighbourhood Houses Victoria (and their nationwide colleagues with Australian Neighbourhood and Community Houses Association) are launching a new approach and asking community members and funding bodies to give this approach, and carers, the support and dignity they deserve.
Based on findings from a successful trial in 10 Neighbourhood and Community Houses and Centres since November 2021, Neighbourhood Houses Victoria are suggesting “Neighbourhood Carers Clubs” could be co-located within Victoria’s existing network of more than 420 independent and community-led Neighbourhood and Community Houses and Centres.
These clubs will be a place where carers are welcome anytime for a coffee, a chat and participation in a range of programs and activities including yoga, walking groups, peer-support and pre-employment training. Carers are free to choose the programs that suit their needs and goals and can coordinate their plans face to face, in their own community, rather than through a call centre or online.
“If the vision of these Neighbourhood Carers Clubs become a reality, we are telling carers that we value them and all that they do.”
Hear Kristine Rawlinson speak in-person at our Presentation Stage at Care Expo Melbourne.