Michelle GriffinAugust 4, 2011 –>
Abigail Elliott and her three-year-old son Willem and daughter daughter Imogen. Photo: Joe Armao
ABIGAIL Elliott doesn’t want people to feel sorry for her. But as the mother of a three-year-old boy with Down syndrome, ”damn it – people do need to know that, yes, it is harder having a child with an intellectual disability”.
Ms Elliott was among a crowd of carers who gave cautious support to the launch yesterday of the National Carer Strategy, a $60 million parcel of adjustments and reforms that aims to repair some of the many funding anomalies and shortfalls in the federal government’s support for the more than 2.6 million people responsible for the care of someone with a disability.
Like many at the gathering at Carers Victoria’s Footscray headquarters, she welcomed the recognition of carers’ own needs emphasised throughout the document, but also made it clear she’s hoping for more when the government responds to the Productivity Commission’s report into the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
”It’s the beginning of a process,” Ms Elliott said. ”It’s a really good start.”
The National Carer Strategy offered $42.6 million to extend the carers allowance to parents of children with type 1 diabetes between the ages of 10 and 16. The $52 a week will compensate parents for life on 24-hour alert, says Mairi-anne Macartney, whose 13-year-old daughter Tess needs insulin shots eight times a day.
Families whose young children (under seven) have been disabled by accident or sudden illness will continue to get the Carer Adjustment Payment, which was due to lapse this financial year.
Sibling carers and others under retirement age will now be able to claim the bereavement payment, an interim payment offered after the person they have cared for has died.
While many welcomed changes that allow working carers to claim the annual $600 carer’s supplement, several carers stressed the need for greater supports to allow carers to get back to work.
”We don’t want all this waffly stuff,” said Brenda Mclachlan, mother of two autistic teenage boys. Previously a research scientist, she’s looking for legislation to create flexible employment for carers. ”Women who choose to be a carer or have it put on us, we have to lose our careers. We need a concrete, sustainable system that is going to ensure that we are able to secure work in our own professions.”
While Senator Jenny Macklin saw the National Carer Strategy as ”part of a long-term 10-year strategy” to fix a system she described as ”not working”, she insisted that ”no decision had been made” on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, including Victoria’s potential role in piloting some of the programs.
The Productivity Commission’s report into the insurance scheme was given to the federal government on Monday.