- December 03, 2009
THE demand for much needed respite care has doubled over the past few years, resulting in fewer hours available to carers each week, new data shows.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found a 30 per cent jump in the number of people accessing disability services in the four years to 2007-08.
Close to half a million Australians used a disability service in 2007-08, an increase of 50,000 recipients since 2003-04.
And over that period respite and employment services experienced the largest increase in demand, around 50 and 40 per cent respectively.
Total government spending for disability services increased by more than 20 per cent during the period but spending per respite recipient fell around 16 per cent.
The funding cuts led to a two hour per week cut in weekly respite hours, down to just 10.5 hours per week in 2007-08.
Carers Australia said the figures are a cause for concern and many carers struggle to get even 10 hours a week.
CEO Joan Hughes said an immediate funding injection is needed, citing recent AIHW data that says the number of people with a severe disability will double to 2.3 million by 2030.
“Carers are becoming very stressed and overwhelmed. We’ve obviously got a crisis now and it’s growing,” she said.
“When we lose respite hours carers’ health and wellbeing is compromised. They get sicker themselves and they can’t care.
“It’s not a good option for anyone and as more and more carers can’t care it’s just going to cost the Government even more.”
The Disability Support Service report also showed that intellectual disability is the most common, accounting for one-third of service users in 2007-08.
More than 110,000 people who used specialist services that year also had a personal carer and 60 per cent of these carers were their mothers.
Disability employment and other services were also provided almost entirely by non-government organisations, the report showed.