Who is a carer?
The Western Australian Carers Recognition Act 2004 defines a carer. In summary, a carer is a person who provides ongoing care, support and assistance to a person with disability, a chronic illness (which includes mental illness) or who is frail, without receiving a salary or wage for the care they provide.
What is the Carers Recognition Act?
The Act is a Western Australian law which recognises the role of carers in the community and provides a way of involving them in delivering services that affect carers and their caring role.
What does it mean for carers?
The Act includes the Western Australian Carers Charter that outlines how carers are to be treated and involved in delivering some services which impact on them as a carer.
Western Australian Carers Charter
- 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.
A carer who believes a relevant service provider has not met their obligations in the Carers Charter should firstly raise their concerns with the service provider involved.
However, 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.
What does it mean for service providers?
The Act requires some state government agencies, currently the Department of Health, public hospitals and the Disability Services Commission, and non-government services funded by these agencies, to do all they can 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 an annual compliance report to the Carers Advisory Council. The Council's report is tabled in State Parliament by the Minister for Community Services.
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.
Carers Advisory Council
The Carers Advisory Council has up to 10 members appointed by the Minister responsible for administering the Act (currently the Minister for Community Services). All members are either carers or have knowledge of matters relevant to carers. The Council:
- promotes relevant service providers' compliance with the Carers Charter through an annual compliance report
- provides general advice to the Minister on carer-related matters.
Department of Communities
The Department of Communities supports Western Australian carers by:
- providing executive support to the Carers Advisory Council
- advising the Minister on emerging issues and trends for carers
- contributing to inter-agency work relevant to carers
- funding ongoing and short-term activities to support carers (e.g. via Carers WA)
- administering the Act.