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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 02 Hansard (Tuesday, 23 February 2010) . . Page.. 503 ..

In the last budget the ACT government committed $800,000 for kinship carers over four years to support grandparent and kinship carers and to strengthen information support networks for those carers. In December 2008, the ACT government allocated one-off funding of $1.25 million to support carers. These funds boosted the capacity of existing community service providers to assist eligible carers, foster carers and kinship carers with bills and purchasing groceries and other essentials. Types of assistance included petrol vouchers, phone cards, essential household goods, pharmacy supplies, clothing, grocery vouchers and assistance to purchase educational supplies. Support was also provided for financial contributions towards the cost of purchasing or installing water or energy-efficient appliances in the home and retrofitting homes to minimise utility costs. The ACT government has developed specific initiatives designed to assist carers and those that they care for. A taxi subsidy scheme provides subsidised taxi fares to people not able to drive themselves or take public transport due to a disability.

We have a large number of carers in our community—over 25,000 according to the 2006 Australian Bureau of Statistics report—and we know that there are many more who, for one reason or another, do not identify themselves as carers. The demand for this informal care will increase with the ageing of our population and the increase in the proportion of our population with a disability.

The demand for these services is an ongoing challenge locally, internationally and nationally. All governments need to manage demand, and the reality is that we need to consider other ways of meeting this demand. The ACT government supports a national initiative to undertake a feasibility study to look at alternative ways of funding people with disabilities through the proposed national disability insurance scheme.

I would like to reiterate that we all need to acknowledge in this place the vital role that carers play in our community, not only the large number of carers but the large range of carers, from very young carers to mature age carers and those caring for their older parents, their children and sometimes their siblings. Carers deserve our recognition and our support. Meeting the needs of carers is a shared responsibility, and a coordinated whole-of-government approach has to be undertaken to improve outcomes for carers and the people they care for.

MR DOSZPOT (Brindabella) (3.25): This is a very timely matter of public importance that Ms Porter has brought to this place today, and I thank her for the opportunity to speak on the important role carers play in the fabric of the ACT community. It is hard to ascertain the number of carers living in our community. Many will care for a loved one or a friend without formal recognition for doing so, and many will care without any financial support from government.

A carer is a person who provides ongoing care or assistance to another individual who has a disability, chronic or mental illness or is frail or aged. Carers provide this care as unpaid labour and usually perform the role for a family member or significant person in their lives. Since being elected and subsequently taking responsibility for my current portfolios, I have had the opportunity to meet with, I would say, hundreds of carers. I have been overwhelmed in each instance by the dedication and strength of these individuals and the dignity with which they care for their loved ones.

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