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Carers Victoria, helping carers get the support they need

CarersVic is asking the community to help it launch a permanent advisory service to stop unpaid carers from getting lost in the system.

When Carers Victoria began trialling a new Carer Advisory Service hotline, they knew there’d be strong demand. But even they didn’t expect the organisation to receive more than 4000 calls for help in just over nine months.

“That was without promoting the service so we know there’s strong demand in the community and a genuine gap in the system,” Carers Victoria CEO Judith Abbott says.

There are more than 700,000 unpaid carers in Victoria and demographic trends are expected to push that number above one million by 2025.

“It's something that people often don't believe will happen to them but it can happen to anyone,” Abbott says. “The aging population means more people are being diagnosed with disabilities while the stigma around mental health and disabilities is reducing – that means more people are identifying as carers. It's a tough gig that’s really time-consuming and isolating.”

Unpaid carers experience loneliness and isolation about two-and-a-half times higher than other Australians, according to research. The challenge is compounded with 37 per cent of primary carers continuing in paid employment while trying to navigate a complicated and fragmented health system.

It was a key reason behind the launch of the Carer Advisory Service pilot scheme, which has helped carers by providing information, referrals, assistance, training and education, as well as emotional support.

The helpline is often called for quick advice, with common questions centred around where carers can receive more support (particularly for patients requiring multiple support services such as aged and health care), and where they can receive more personal respite from the constant demands of care. About 94 per cent of carers using the service reported a high level of satisfaction.

“The economic replacement value of what Victorian carers do is around $19 billion a year – that's huge. This is helping them do something they do because they care and they're genuinely interested in contributing.”

The success of the initial Carer Advisory Service pilot scheme has prompted Carers Victoria to begin looking for funding to create a permanent service. Funding would initially help pay for more experts to help answer inbound calls.

"We have people who've been working with carers for 10-15 years and about three-quarters have ‘lived experience’ of caring, so they really get it and have that deep expertise. They can give the quick, easy answers carers need but can also listen and work through their problems in a careful and focused way.”

The organisation also has long-term plans to expand the service across the entire state and offer access to information outside business hours, potentially using technology, given carers often find it hard to seek advice during standard hours.

“CarersVic is there to support anyone who is part of a care relationship,” Abbott says. “If you are supporting a family member, friend, spouse, or someone else in your community, you can join Carers Victoria for free. That will give you connection to information, advice, and an easy way of finding what you need when you need it.”

Carers Victoria is seeking to extend the Carer Advisory Service to reach across the entire state and offer access to information outside business hours, which are often the only times carers can seek advice or assistance. We are seeking partners to help continue to respond to the demand for services as well as expand and sustain this critical support system for carers in Victoria so they can get the support they need to be able to sustain the vital work that they provide to our society and economy. If you would like to support this project, please email Nikki Black or call 0448 811 891