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Carers Need Urgent Focus

Carers Need Urgent Focus

One of the world's largest qualitative studies about the lives of family carers, undertaken by the University of Auckland, has found that less than 1% of Kiwi carers of disabled children and young people are satisfied with the supports provided to their family.

Carers of older people say they are faring slightly better ... less than 3% of these carers say they are getting enough support.

Only 10 of the 300 carers interviewed has been able to remain in paid employment due to the commitments of providing support for a friend or family member.

The study is based on extensive interviews with New Zealand carers of all ages and caring situations.

It was supported by Carers NZ and other non-government organisations, who encouraged carers to participate.

Carried out by University of Auckland lecturer and researcher Dr Diane Jorgensen, the Carers' Assessment of Needs (CAN) study found that men in caring roles for disabled children are among the most stressed carers. Two thirds of carers in the CAN project have experienced depression.

Carers NZ says the findings are a red flag for a society depending ever more on family carers to make policies such as ageing in place and community care work. There aren't enough practical supports in place for carers of any age and urgent attention is needed to ward off high numbers of carers becoming health consumers themselves, says Carers NZ chief executive Laurie Hilsgen.

Census 2006 found more than 420,000 carers in New Zealand. Carers are the country's biggest health workforce and their unpaid work has an annual minimum value of $7 billion. Carers NZ believes the true number of carers in New Zealand to exceed 750,000, based on demographic studies carried out in peer nations such as Britain, the United States, and Australia.

"The CAN study is important evidence from our own backyard, pointing to a need for urgent implementation of the Carers' Strategy and other policy improvements," Hilsgen says. "New Zealand can no longer take its family carers for granted. Families are struggling and we have to move faster to improve supports."

Carers NZ is the Secretariat for the Carers Alliance, a coalition of 45 national non-profits who made a united call for a Carers' Strategy in 2004. The Strategy and its first five year Action Plan were launched last April.

The Alliance met at Parliament this week to agree on new policy work for families with health and disability needs, such as supporting the NZ Continence Association in its call for a national approach to continence services, and improvements in the Carer Support subsidy and Needs Assessment and Service Coordination.

The Alliance is also awaiting signals from the new government about how it will support carers, and its direction regarding implementation of the Carers' Strategy Action Plan. All political parties pledged to support and build on the Carers' Strategy during the election campaign.

Read Dr Jorgensen's CAN study report, and Carers NZ's press release about the findings, at www.carers.net.nz

ENDS

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