What is the Carers Recognition Act?
On 1 January 2005, Western Australia became the first jurisdiction in Australia to extend legal recognition to carers with the introduction of the Carers Recognition Act 2004 (the Act). The Act recognises the role of carers in the community and includes the Carers Charter, which outlines how carers are to be treated and how they are to be involved in delivering services that affect them and their caring role.
The Act requires prescribed Western Australian Government agencies and non-government service providers that are funded by prescribed agencies, to comply with the Carers Charter. These agencies include the Department of Health and its service providers, and the Disability Services Commission.
Western Australian Carers Charter
The Carer Charter outlines how carers are to be treated and involved in delivering some services which impact on them as a carer.
- Carers must be treated with respect and dignity.
- The role of carers must be recognised by including carers in the assessment, planning, delivery and review of services that impact on them and the role of carers.
- The views and needs of carers must be taken into account along with the views, needs and best interests of people receiving care when decisions are made that impact on carers and the role of carers.
- Complaints made by carers in relation to services that impact on them and the role of carers must be given due attention and consideration.
What does the Act mean for carers?
A carer who believes a relevant service provider has not met their obligations under the Carers Charter should firstly raise their concerns with the service provider involved.
If the matter is not resolved carers may wish to contact the Health and Disability Service Complaints Office (HaDSCO). HaDSCO is an independent statutory authority that provides an impartial resolution service for complaints about Western Australian health or disability services.
- Telephone: 08 6551 7600
- Freecall (Country): 1800 813 583
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.hadsco.wa.gov.au
What does the Act mean for service providers?
The Act requires Department of Health, public hospitals and the Disability Services Commission, and non-government services funded by these agencies, to comply with the Carers Charter. The Department of Health, public hospitals and the Disability Services Commission are also required to involve carers or their representatives in developing policies or programs and in strategic or operational planning that might affect carers and their caring roles.
These state government agencies must provide annual compliance reports to the Carers Advisory Council. The Council's report is tabled in State Parliament by the Minister for Community Services and can then be downloaded from the Department of Communities' website.
The Act requires carers or their representatives to be involved in developing policies or programs and in strategic or operational planning that might affect carers and their caring role.
Mary is the primary carer for her adult daughter Alice who has an intellectual disability.
Alice was recently hospitalised with a virus and is being discharged. Alice saw the doctor by herself and received instructions on how and when to take her medications.
Alice asked for information about the side effects of the medication, but the doctor would not respond, despite several requests. As Mary was not consulted in the discharge plan, she is unsure what medications Alice needs and when she should give them to her.
Mary complained to the hospital but was unhappy with the result. Mary then contacted HaDSCO and made a complaint under the Health and Disability Services (Complaints) Act 1995 on behalf of Alice as a patient, and herself as a carer under the Carers Recognition Act 2004.
HaDSCO liaised with Mary, Alice and the hospital to resolve the matter.
Mary and Alice had their issues resolved and the hospital was encouraged to communicate better and to involve carers in discharge planning.
Review of the Act
In 2018, the Department of Communities commenced a review of the Act to ensure carers continue to be supported and recognised.
Carers, community members and other stakeholders around Western Australia had their say during a consultation process and provided feedback on a range of issues, including the best ways to recognise carers and the role they provide to the community.
The Carers Recognition Act 2004: Report to Parliament was tabled in Parliament by the Hon. Simone McGurk on 24 November 2021.