The week just gone was National Carers Week in Australia. It's a chance to say thank you to those who provide care in all sorts of ways, and to recognise their valuable work. Informal carers save government in this country over $1BILLION each and every week: over $60billion annually. That's a lot of dollars in anyone's language.
At Dinner on the Table we think that things could be done differently to support carers. Most services that support people with disabilities provide support in the context of the needs of the other people in their client's life. So, for families in which a child has a disability, services will often spend a lot of time considering the needs of other people in that child's life: their parents, their siblings, maybe their grandparents too.
But few services are funded to actually provide service to the other important people in the life of a child with disability. While many (perhaps even the majority) do an outstanding job of considering the "bigger picture" of the needs of a person with a disability, they largely operate on a primary client model. The primary client is the one who receives the support.
But does this even matter? If the needs of others are considered in support planning, isn't that enough?
I'm not sure that it is. And here's why.
In many cases of crisis driven family breakdown: when things really hit the skids and households collapse, it is concern regarding the needs of people other than a person with a disability that weigh heavily in the crisis.
Research tells us that in families where a child has a disability, parents often worry that the needs of their other non-disabled children aren't being met. Those same parents may report increased levels of stress, anxiety and poor health, than their peers.
In instances where a parent has a disability or mental illness, concerns may be raised about whether the needs of children are being met.
Caring for carers matters. Caring for households matters. They make a significant contribution to the health, wellbeing and dignity of people with disabilities; and the health and wellbeing of society as a whole. And when the needs of the household are unmet, the consequences both for their wellbeing and that of their whole household may be devastating.