The current coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has presented governments and employers with significant challenges. It has also bought about new challenges for carers and the people they care for. Before we look at these, it is important to remember:
- A carer is someone who provides unpaid support to a friend or family member who has a disability, mental illness, drug or alcohol dependency, chronic condition, terminal illness or who is frail aged.
- Anyone can become a carer and there are approximately 2.65 million carers in Australia1.
- Carers are already supporting the economy and care systems by providing large amounts of unpaid care. It has been estimated that carers provide 1.9 billion hours of unpaid care each year with the cost to replace this estimated to be $60.3 billion2.
- Studies have shown that carers already have lower levels of wellbeing than the rest of the population3.
- There are financial impacts to taking on a caring role, with reduced opportunities to work, build superannuation and the extra costs associated with providing care.
Many carers, already under pressure juggling work and care are now facing additional pressures. These include:
- Cancellation or reduction of in-home supports leading to increased responsibilities for carers.
- Working from home and having to manage care of others while keeping on top of workloads.
- Reduced opportunities for respite from caring (while juggling work and caring can be stressful, going to work can act as a form of respite providing the opportunity to socialise and nurture an identity outside of the role of carer).
- Worry about who will look after the person they are caring for, if they are incapacitated and can no longer care.
- ‘Social distancing’ has changed the way we all stay socially connected. With isolation already being an issue for some carers, this current situation has the potential to exacerbate this.
During this time senior management can send a message of recognition and support for carers. Policies and procedures that support carers should be promoted along with workplace supports like an Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). Carers can also source valuable information and support from their State and Territory based Carers Association and through the Carer Gateway (1800 422 737).
If your organisation would like information on how to become a carer friendly employer, please visit the website Carers + Employers or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2018) Survey of Disability Ageing and Carers.
2Deloitte Access Economics (2015) The Economic Value of Informal Care in Australia.
3 Tomyn, Adrian & Cummins, Robert. (2007). The Wellbeing of Australians: Carer health and wellbeing.