New efforts to assess and meet the needs of carers are required alongside consumer directed care policies in aged care and disability, a new report argues.

Researchers from the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales said CDC models, which focus more directly on the needs and preferences of care recipients, create challenges for informal carers to have their specific needs met.

“The parallel policies in some overseas countries to recognise the needs of carers in their own right is currently not evident in the Australian Government policy frameworks of the NDIS or CHSP,” the authors wrote in the paper Transitioning Australian Respite, released late last month.

Although carers’ goals and aspirations are recognised in the guidelines for carer support under the NDIS, there is no formal assessment process for carers.

In the UK, carers’ needs are assessed independently of the needs of service users and the right of carers to a separate assessment is enshrined in legislation. In the US, the needs of all members of the family are assessed at once, the report said.

There are calls from advocates in Australia for a carer assessment process similar to those existing internationally as an important concurrent process to the NDIS and CHSP, alongside a separate suite of carer support services, the authors wrote.

In the 2015-16 federal budget, the government announced an Integrated Plan for Carer Support Services, which is currently being developed. The government has also introduced a National Carer Gateway in December 2015 to offer practical information and resources to carers.

Impact on respite services

Examining evidence from overseas, the report said the shift to individualised funding in these sectors could affect the viability of respite services with high infrastructure and capital costs such as centre-based care, as well as volunteer-run services.

“In the new individualised funding model, the sources of capital available to services to cultivate and coordinate these volunteer-run supports, including host family respite, for example, will be lost and supports of this kind may no longer be sustainable.”

Research from the UK showed clients with individual budgets were more likely to spend their allocated funds on personal care rather than social or leisure activities. If this trend is repeated in Australia, individualised funding may impact on future demand for respite services, the authors said.

The report said it was necessary for the government to address how the needs of small groups requiring respite, particularly in rural and remote areas, will be met in a CDC market.

Read the full report here

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