This week we celebrate National Carers Week, a week dedicated to recognising and celebrating the outstanding contribution unpaid carers make to our nation. This year’s theme is #whywecare.
With over 3.24 million Australians living with chronic pain, we know that carers provide a large and unpaid amount of support and services.
Most informal carers provide this service free of charge and outside of the formal care sector. An informal carer will typically be a family member or friend of the person receiving care, and usually lives in the same household as the person receiving the care. Many people living with chronic pain receive informal care from more than one person.
This informal care does come at a cost. Time spent caring involves forfeiting time that could have been spent on paid work or undertaking other important activities.
Informal care can be valued as the opportunity cost associated with the loss of economic resources (labour) and the loss in leisure time valued by the carer.
The total costs of informal care for Australians with chronic pain was estimated to be $4.51 billion in Australia in 2018, which equates to $1,390 per person with chronic pain.
Besides the economic cost, caring for people also takes a personal toll. A Carers Australia survey revealed that over half reported some level of depression and one third severely or extremely depressed.
Through our consultations on the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, we know that many people with chronic pain rely on carers to support them, who in turn rely on our social security safety nets.
Sadly sometimes our safety net systems can penalise the very people it needs to support. Media stories highlight how carers of people with chronic pain are often caught between the cracks of our rigid regulatory processes, with devastating impacts on both the carer as well as the people they support.
National Carers Week provides an opportunity to raise awareness among all Australians about the diversity of carers and their caring roles.
We must also recognise that often this journey is not without its challenges. We must do more to to improve the quality of life of people living with pain, their families AND carers, and to minimise the social and economic burden of pain.