GOW Planning Model

Your Caring Way: Re-Entering the Workforce for Australian Carers

Your Caring Way is a new program of services that focus upon carers wanting to pursue their own goals, like a new career. Here’s what you need to know about it!

by Emma Lennon

Australians who provide unpaid care for an older loved one, or someone who lives with disabilities are an essential part of our community, and make incredibly valuable and important contributions to our society. 

Caring for a friend or family member who needs assistance with daily living tasks is rewarding, but it can also take a toll on your own life when you are busy with all the demands of caring. To address this, the Department of Social Services has partnered with Carers Queensland to launch a pilot program across Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania to support carers to achieve their goals, such as pursuing education or an entirely new career. Read on to find out more about the Your Caring Way program and what support it may be able to offer you or a loved one.

The Importance of Unpaid Carers in Australia

your caring way

Unpaid carers, or informal carers, are people who provide care and support to someone they already know, such as a neighbour, friend or family member. Carers look after people who are living with a range of challenges such as a disability, chronic or severe health condition, mental illness, addiction or who is frail aged. Every caring scenario is different, but informal carers often provide critical support with physical or personal care like bathing and dressing assistance, as well as helping with medication management, transport, emotional and social support and responding to emergency situations.

More than 2.65 million Australians have informal caring responsibilities, making up around 11% of the Australian population. Over half of informal carers provide at least 20 hours of unpaid care per week, and one-third of carers provide over 40 hours of care each week. Not only is this emotionally and physically taxing at times, it can make it very difficult to find and keep a supportive and suitable job. 

Many carers are forced to reduce their hours worked or withdraw from the workforce altogether in order to meet the demands of their caring role, despite no financial compensation for their important caring role. This has led to far lower full-time employment rates for informal carers, which is at 23.7%, compared with the general population average of 43.1% engaged in full-time work. Unemployment, or underemployment, can have serious consequences for the financial wellbeing of informal carers. The median weekly income of unpaid carers is around $800, compared with $997 per week for the general population. Furthermore, carers are twice as likely to live with a disability themselves than non-carers, creating an additional barrier to economic and workforce participation and all of the benefits that come with having suitable, secure employment.

The Economic Impacts of Unpaid Caregiving in Australia

Deloitte Access Economics have provided an estimate of the ‘replacement cost’ of unpaid care in Australia to help paint a picture of the significant effort and contributions of informal carers across the country. The ‘replacement cost’ method is an estimate of what it would cost to ‘buy’ sufficient care services to replace the level of unpaid care being provided in Australia. Recent estimates found that almost 2.2 billion hours of unpaid care were provided in 2020, which, taking into account average hourly costs of formal care providers, comes to around $77.9 billion worth of care being provided. Clearly, it is vitally important to recognise the hard and important work of informal carers, and to ensure they are supported in their roles to protect the wellbeing of people needing care into the future.

Of particular concern is the projected increased demand for caring in the future, driven by changing birth rates and an ageing population. The demand for informal care is predicted to greatly outweigh the number of informal carers available in the near future, posing concern and consideration for how we as a society will support older people and those who need assistance on a daily basis. Widening the gap between the supply and demand of informal carers has raised important policy considerations, and highlighted the need to better support unpaid carers in their role, including supporting them to engage in the workforce. This may include greater flexibility in workplaces to accommodate demands on carers’ time, or providing more and better quality services like respite care that offer carers a chance to have a break and pursue their own aspirations. 

Protecting and supporting carers in Australia is vital for the sustainability of the disability and aged care systems in Australia, hence the increased focus on supporting carers to participate in the workforce and enjoy greater financial independence. Your Caring Way is one of the ways Australia is attempting to break down the barriers to workforce participation among Australian carers. 

What is the New ‘Your Caring Way’ Program?

The Your Caring Way program provides a suite of services and support for carers who want to pursue their own personal and professional goals. As an informal carer, you provide such an important service to your loved one and the broader community, but it is important to pursue your own dreams too. To be eligible for Your Caring Way services and support, you need to be a current or recent carer (meaning you have provided informal care within the two years prior to applying for Your Caring Way) and reside within the three pilot states and territories (Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania). You must also be of legal working age, and be unemployed or underemployed with a goal of securing meaningful participation in work, study, volunteering or training. 

Your Caring Way is completely free for eligible carers, and will provide a range of support options that are tailored to your unique circumstances, skills, experience and interests. If you are unsure if you qualify as a carer, you can refer to Carers Queensland’s Are You a Carer Flyer (PDF).

What Support Can I Access?

If you are eligible to take part, upon applying for the Your Caring Way program, a dedicated Vocational Coach will be assigned to work with you on your journey to re-entering the workforce. Your Vocational Coach will help explain the process of completing the Your Caring Way program, which begins with creating a Grow Plan. Grow Plans are plans that take into account the whole journey, and how a person can get from where they are now to where they want to go. Grow Plans refer to the acronym GROW, which stands for Goals, Reality, Options, and Way Forward. 

GOW Planning Model

Plan

No two carers will have the exact same aspirations and goals for their life, so rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach, Your Caring Way is tailored to you. Your Vocational Coach will work with you one-on-one to create a customised plan based on your individual situation. Innovative assessment tools will be used to get a sense of your skills, capabilities, as well as your capacity and any barriers preventing you from entering the workforce, whether or not these are directly relating to your caring role. This Individual Needs Assessment will form the basis of your Grow Plan to help take you from where you are to where you want to go. 

Grow

Based on the findings of your Individual Needs Assessment, your Vocational Coach will start supporting you to build the skills, knowledge, support networks and confidence that you need to start achieving your goals. This skill development phase will be tailored to you, and you don’t need any past experience to start learning. Every person’s growth journey will look different, however may include activities like coaching and mentoring, learning and development opportunities or support to develop ‘soft skills’ that are important in the workplace such as communication, time management, advocacy and balancing your personal life with your work commitments. 

Achieve

Once you are ready to embark on the next phase of your vocational journey, Your Caring Way will be ready to help you to do so. Your Vocational Coach will support you to self-identify what you want to achieve, and provide the resources and support to reach your goals. Depending on what you decide to do, Your Caring Way may help enroll you in training and development courses to formalise or further build your skills, or they may assist you to secure work experience, volunteering opportunities, or to go straight into paid employment. Whatever you decide you want to pursue, Your Caring Way will be there to support you.

What If I Live Outside of the Program Pilot Areas?

The Your Caring Way program is currently only being delivered in Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania. However, if you are a carer living outside of these states and territories and would like support to re-enter the workforce, there are other options to consider. Carer support organisations exist in all states in Australia, with most of them providing employment support either directly or via referrals to other organisations. 

New South Wales

Carers New South Wales is a member of Carers Australia, and is the peak non-government organisation for carers in New South Wales. Carers New South Wales offer a range of services, program and support options for carers, including social and emotional support groups, mentoring and National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) support coordination. They can also help you if you are a local carer looking for work, education or training. Carers New South Wales run a program called Care2Work, which aims to build the work readiness and capacity of carers wanting to re-enter the workforce. Care2Work provides personalised, one-one-one support to help you achieve your goals and aspirations.

Carers New South Wales understands how important it is that employers are welcoming, understanding and flexible to the unique needs of employees who have informal caring responsibilities. This inspired them to create their Carers + Employment program, an accreditation program that enables workplaces to be recognised as ‘carer-friendly’ and let carers know that it is a safe and accommodating place to work. Carers living in New South Wales can also access a range of training and educational opportunities in order to increase their career prospects and achieve their goals.

Victoria

Carers Victoria operate a Support for Carers Program, which is focussed on providing tailored support to informal carers in any area of their life they need assistance with. This person-centred program takes a customised support approach, and may assist carers with respite, help with accessing goods and equipment, or supporting the social, emotional and financial wellbeing of carers. Carers Victoria may also be able to link you with local providers of suitable employment support, so reach out to get in touch with a Carers Victoria team members to start getting help today.

Western Australia

The Western Australian branch of Carers Australia offers tailored support to carers across the state, including supporting carers to get back into the workforce or pursue education and training. Carers Western Australia offer two specific programs aimed at improving employment outcomes for people who provide informal care to a loved one. The Carers – Be Job Ready! program is a work readiness and employability skills training course delivered in the Perth Central Business District. This training program covers the fundamental skills and knowledge needed to secure and keep suitable employment, and offers the opportunity to learn with other carers in a non-judgemental, safe space. You can find out more about this program by contacting Carers Western Australia, or by reading some testimonials from carers who have previously taken part in this program.

The Carer Friendly Employers program focuses on building the skills and abilities of businesses to employ and support staff members who also have caring responsibilities. This program helps businesses become accredited and recognised as supportive employers for carers, and provides them with custom support and resources to ensure their staff can perform at their best whilst still meeting the needs of the person they care for. 

Want to Know More?

Navigating the range of programs and services available to help you get back into the workforce can feel a little overwhelming, especially if you have not worked for a while or if you are new to the world of employment. 

If you are unsure where to start, it’s always a good idea to begin by connecting with your local carer support organisation. They will be able to give you reliable, up to date information about local support services and programs available to participate in. They may also link you with social support groups where you can discuss your questions and concerns with other people with similar lived experience. 

If you are a carer who also lives with a disability, employment support is available through any of your local Disability Employment Support (DES) service providers. There are a wide range of providers to choose from, so take your time considering your options and reach out to your local Carers Australia branch if you need guidance or support. 

Your role as a carer is so important and valuable, but it’s important to remember to take care of yourself so that you can continue to lead a fulfilling life, including taking care of those most important to you.

References
  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021, September 16). Informal carers. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/informal-carers
  2. Carers Australia. (2020a, May). The value of informal care in 2020. https://www.carersaustralia.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/FINAL-Value-of-Informal-Care-22-May-2020_No-CIC.pdf
  3. Carers Australia. (2020b, July 1). Who Is a Carer? https://www.carersaustralia.com.au/about-carers/who-is-a-carer/
  4. Kinora. (2021, September 30). A program for carers wanting to re-enter the workforce — Kinora NDIS Answers. https://www.kinora.com.au/advice-articles/carers-re-enter-workforce
  5. Your Caring Way. (2020a, May 12). Your Future. https://yourcaringway.com.au/your-journey/your-future/
  6. Your Caring Way. (2020b, May 12). Your Growth. https://yourcaringway.com.au/your-journey/your-growth/
  7. Your Caring Way. (2020c, May 12). Your Plan. https://yourcaringway.com.au/your-journey/your-plan/
  8. Your Caring Way. (2021, July 23). Carers. https://yourcaringway.com.au/information-for/carers/
About the Writer
Emma Lennon
Emma is a public health professional who is passionate about creating health content that informs and empowers. When she is not writing, you can find her at the gym or curled up on the couch with her rescue greyhounds.
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