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Free services available for informal supports/carers

Jess explores the supports offered by Carer Gateway, including peer support groups, tailored support packages, counselling, emergency respite and more.

By Jessica Quilty

Updated 15 Apr 202413 Sept 2023
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There are almost 2.65 million unpaid carers across Australia. That’s 1 in 9 people! Yet, understandably many people don’t identify as carers. We are simply children, parents, partners, relatives, or friends supporting someone close to us. Of the total number of Australian carers, 235 000 are under the age of 25.

Helping carers get support they need can make a big difference to their lives and improve not only their overall health and wellbeing, but also that of the person they are supporting.

Key facts:

  • Two thirds of carers spend up to 3 hours a day providing care and support. 
  • Just over half of all carers are primary carers. That means they’re the only person looking after the person they care for. 
  • Over a third of all carers live with disability themselves. 
  • About half of primary carers in Australia have a chronic illness or condition.

After significant interest from delegates at our recent NDIS conference, Carer Gateway has reached out to DSC to share the ways it can provide support. This is not intended as an advertisement, but as someone that has personally benefited from the services of Carer Gateway, I am often surprised at how under-utilised it is. People are often unaware that families and carers can get timely support on top of the individualised support delivered under the NDIS. For disability service providers, it’s useful to understand what is available, so you can share information with people and facilitate access if required.

So let’s jump into it.

First up, what is a carer?

A carer is a person who is unpaid and provides care and support to a family member or friend with a disability, medical condition, mental illness, drug or alcohol dependency or someone who is frail due to age. So we are not talking about paid support workers here. In the NDIS, we often refer to carers as a type of ‘informal support.’

Carers can be any age and provide any type of care, from 24-hour support to a few hours a week. A person doesn’t need to live with the person they care for.

So what exactly is the Carer Gateway?

Carer Gateway is an Australian Government program which provides free services and support for carers. It was first introduced in 2015 as a website and phone line to help carers find and access support. The Australian Government committed to improving carer support and undertook an extensive four-year consultation process to see what people need to preserve their role and wellbeing. This process found that the best way to support carers is to help them early in their caring role. Through a range of tailored supports and services, carers can be supported to manage their daily challenges, reduce stress, plan for the future, and ultimately improve their wellbeing. Today, the Australian Government works with a range of health and carer organisations across Australia, known as Carer Gateway service providers, to deliver services to carers no matter where they live in Australia.

Who is eligible for support?

All carers can get support through Carer Gateway - regardless of whether they are receiving a government carer payment. It is also not limited to one primary carer, other members of the family and friends may also be eligible to register, including young carers under 25 years of age.

Carer Gateway is also available for carers who hold a visa or have refugee status.

How does it affect other entitlements?

Using Carer Gateway will not affect services delivered through the NDIS, My Aged Care, or any state or territory carer services or carer payments.

What services are available?

Carer Gateway provides a range of services across Australia, in-person, online and over the phone including:

  • In-person and online peer support groupsThese are designed to help people meet other carers and share stories, knowledge, and experience.
  • Tailored support packages Carers may be able to get a range of practical supports like services or equipment to help them with continued education, planned respite, cooking and cleaning services, assistance with shopping and transport. These are available in addition to NDIS funded support.
  • In-person and phone counsellingCarers can access a counsellor in person or over the phone.
  • In-person and online self-guided coachingCarers can talk to a professional coach to reflect on their experience and needs, identify personal goals, and create a plan to reach these goals. Or they can work through interactive online coaching sessions at their own pace.
  • Online skills courses - The Carer Gateway has a range of courses to support wellbeing and understanding of legal responsibilities relating to the caring role.
  • Access to emergency respite - If a carer suddenly finds they are unable to provide care or support, for example they become ill or injured, service providers will find ways to support the person while they recover.

How do carers access services?

Carers can register with Carer Gateway by calling 1800 422 737 Monday to Friday between 8am and 5pm and selecting option 1. Carers will then be directed to speak with their local Carer Gateway service provider to talk them through registration and start the planning process. This helps Carer Gateway staff learn more about the carer’s circumstances so they can match services to their needs.

Support coordinators and service providers can refer carers directly to the local Carer Gateway service providers within their areas.

What useful resources can support coordinators and service providers have on hand?

  • You can find a range of downloadable brochures, fact sheets and FAQs here.
  • Advertising material can also be accessed and downloaded here.
  • Information sheets are available in a number of different languages including AUSLAN.
  • Carer Gateway has resources available to assist First Nation’s carers.
  • If you would like to organise for some physical brochures to be delivered to your office these can be ordered for free via the Carer Gateway website.

Need more information?

If you need more information or have a specific question regarding a carer you support, you can contact Tracey via [email protected] or phone 0466 463 301.


Jessica Quilty

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