Unpaid Queensland family carers are being given an opportunity for some time out from their full-time caring roles under a deal with online short stay marketplace Airbnb.
The Short Break for Carers project, a joint initiative between Carers Queensland and Airbnb, will see hosts on the Gold Coast turn their properties into Carebnbs, offering eligible carers from low-income families two-nights free accommodation mid-week.
Michelle Ehmann at Carers Queensland, who is managing the project, says the initiative is a way to support unpaid carers, who make an enormous contribution to local communities across Australia.
Around 12 per cent of the population, or 2.7 million people, were caring for an older Australian or someone living with a disability in 2015, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.The role can be demanding and relentless, with carers more likely to experience anxiety, depression and back problems, and having less time for social connections or to tend to their own wellbeing.
A respite gives them the chance to relieve their stress, renew their energy and restore a sense of balance to their lives.
But while short breaks are invaluable to carers, they are also valuable to hosts, Ehmann says.
“Most of us want to find a way to contribute to our communities, but many of us are time poor, or cash poor. This is a different kind of giving,” she told Community Care Review.
“Airbnb hosts are property owners and they can actually take advantage of an asset they already have by providing a mid-week break, because that’s when a lot of properties are vacant anyway.”
The project doesn’t require Airbnb hosts to vacate their properties. “Many don’t actually live on site, while others may offer a studio or a granny flat, or a private room with a private bathroom in their home,” says Ehmann. “We welcome a variety of host properties for this initiative because different people will be suited to different places.”
Hopes for statewide rollout
The project has already been running for some time on the Sunshine Coast, where a handful of Airbnb hosts have been regularly offering their homes to carers on an informal basis. “Over the last three years we’ve probably given about 50 carers a break,” says Ehmann.
Based on the success of the program, Airbnb and Carers Queensland discussed taking it further. The Gold Coast is the next stop, with Ehmann currently marketing to Airbnb hosts and receiving expressions of interest in the region.
“This is a host-driven initiative, but Airbnb are incredibly supportive,” explained Ehmann.
“The plan is ultimately that we will roll out state-wide and perhaps even wider,” she said, adding that slow and sustainable growth is key to success.
For many carers, the deal offers the only chance of a break, Ehmann says, offering an example of a carer in the Gold Coast hinterland who is travelling to a Carebnb on the Gold Coast in early September.
“She cares for her husband, and she cares for her elderly mother. She hasn’t had a break by herself in 18 months,” said Ehmann. “If she goes away, she usually has her husband with her or her mother with her. This will mean the world to her.”
*For more information on the project, contact email@example.com. Carers wanting to register should contact Carers Queensland on 1800 242 636.