Carer’s Allowance is a “supplementary payment for parents or carers who provide daily care to an adult or dependent child who has a disability or medical condition or is frail aged.” This includes psychiatric disability and so these benefits should also be available to mental health carers.
Carer’s Allowance is paid in addition to other support payments such as Carers Payment or Newstart allowance. Carer Allowance is paid to approved applicants by Centrelink.
Carers can receive this payment when they have special responsibility for someone who may be under 16 or over 16. Carers of adults (over 16 years of age) can also receive this allowance. The allowance is paid fortnightly and it is not income tested.
Full details for eligibility are available from Centrelink.
Carers allowance is a necessary financial assistance. Family based carers are cheaper than a professional worker and they keep people out of acute care situations or institutions.
However, the application process for carers allowance seems designed to assess needs based on permanent disability or physical illness. The forms and related questions used in the application do not seem well suited to assessing the impact of mental illness, which may be associated with variable degrees of disability. However, Centrelink will grant the allowance to mental health carers if additional supporting information is supplied from allied health professionals.
There is a major degree of disablement associated with mental illness. For example major depression has a profound impact on ‘impairment in work and social roles’. Effective advocacy on behalf of carers in support of carers needs to focus on the need for this kind of financial support.
ARAFMI (NSW) and providers of the Family and Carers Mental Health Program in NSW are concerned that the tests for disability are not well suited to psychological disability in spite of the severity of the restrictions this can place on people and their carers.
We would like to learn from carers whatever if these concerns are justified. Please take ARAFMI’s survey (attached) and help us to find out!