NATIONAL CARER SURVEY
2020 National Carer Survey shows better support for carers is needed!
Originally published in the December 2020-January 2021 edition of Carers News, the member newsletter of Carers NSW. All dollar figures refer to $AUD. The 2020 National Carer Survey was conducted by Carers NSW with the support of the Carer Associations in each of the other 5 states and 2 territories of Australia.
Every two years, Carers NSW conducts a statewide Carer Survey to gather information about the experiences and support needs of carers. Over the years, the Survey findings have greatly increased the knowledge about what it means to be a carer in New South Wales and helped Carers NSW and our partner organisations to advocate for better support for carers across Australia.
With the support of the state and territory Carer Associations, this year the survey was conducted Australia-wide for the first time. More than 7,700 current and former carers from all over Australia responded to the call to participate, and helped to create the most comprehensive data source on the needs of Australian carers to date.
The nationwide approach also helped increase the response rate from diverse groups of carers. For example, nearly one in ten respondents speak a language other than English at home and more than 16% live in outer regional or remote parts of Australia. The data collected in the 2020 National Carer Survey will help Carers NSW and the other state and territory Carer Associations to advocate for and deliver better support to the needs of all carers.
When the decision was made to conduct the 2020 Carer Survey nationally, no one was anticipating that data collection would happen during the height of the first lockdown due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This year’s Survey therefore also captures how the pandemic has affected the lives of carers and their loved ones.
While data analysis is still ongoing, the first results clearly show the effects of the pandemic in the reported level of psychological distress. The Survey uses the Kessler scale, a psychological tool to screen for distress in large populations, to gather information about the effects of the caring role on the mental health of carers. Nearly half of the carers who responded reported that they were under high or very high distress, a 5% increase from the Carers NSW 2018 Carer Survey. Similarly, the overall wellbeing of carers participating in the survey was very low. The average score on the Personal Wellbeing Index was 57%, compared to 75% in the general population. Younger, rural and remote and non-binary carers were particularly likely to experience low wellbeing.
An important factor contributing to wellbeing is social support from friends and family, and the 2020 National Carer Survey found that many carers are in need of more social connection. More than 55% of respondents are socially isolated or have only low levels of social support. This is a concerningly high rate, which we hope will improve as COVID-19 restrictions continue to relax.
Social support is not the only area for improvement identified by the Survey. Many carers responding to the Survey felt that their caring role was not recognised in the community and by government, and carers were unlikely to be asked about their own needs when accessing services with the person they care for.
The lack of carer recognition and support is also evident in the financial situation many carers find themselves in. While carers come from all walks of life, providing care can have significant negative effects on the income situation of the household. Most carers responding to the survey were living in households with a gross income of less than $50,000 per year and received some form of Government income support. Almost 60% of respondents to the Survey received the Carer Allowance, an income supplement of up to $131.90 per fortnight, and one in four carers receive the Carer Payment (up to $944.30 per fortnight for singles, or $1,423.60 combined for couples, including the Pension and Energy supplements).
Of those receiving the Carer Payment, one in four carers were undergoing financial distress, as measured by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Financial distress is understood as experiencing four episodes of financial stress in the previous year, such as not being able to pay bills on time, spending more money than received per month, or not being able to raise $2000 in a week if an emergency were to happen. Just over half (50.7%) of respondents experienced at least one form of financial stress in their household in the year prior to completing the Survey, compared to only one in five (21.8%) of Australian households.
These first results of the 2020 National Carer Survey show that there is much to do to improve the lives of carers in Australia. The information provided by Survey respondents represents an invaluable evidence base for Carers NSW and the Carer Associations to inform our service delivery and systemic advocacy. We would like to sincerely thank everyone who took the time to respond and help Carers NSW to show that better support for carers is needed. Congratulations also to the eight respondents who were selected in the prize draw to win an iPad.
More information and the survey report can be viewed on our website at www.carersnsw.org.au/research/survey or you can phone us on 02 9280 4744.