SOME carers in Port Stephens have been stunned to learn that they can no longer access the Mental Health Carer Respite Support Programme, a Department of Social Services initiative.
Due to the roll-out of the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) in the Port Stephens area, from July 2016, funds for the Mental Health Carer Respite Programme have been withdrawn if the person they care for has a NDIS plan.
The reasoning is that the person being cared for will now be able to access more services and community supports, therefore giving carers a break.
Carers are still able to access the Carer Line on 1800 242 636 and some referral pathways, including counselling.
News Of The Area spoke with various carers in the area and the general reaction was one of disbelief.
Carers felt that even if the person they care for goes out for a couple of hours, they are still there caring at all other times.
Caring is so much more than physical care and is about phone calls, emails, letters, form filling, research and attending appointments too.
The role is demanding and can be draining, with poor health, depression and high stress levels being some of the documented conditions faced by some carers.
Locally, Carers NSW hosted a cinema outing, preceded by coffee and cake, once a month in Nelson Bay which was very popular and available to all carers.
They also hosted other events such as a cruise around Newcastle harbour and family cinema trips in Newcastle.
These have now been withdrawn for those who care for someone with a NDIS plan.
This is not a decision made by the organisation, who have always been very supportive locally, but is due to wider legislation.
Judy Merrett, whose son Dylan has autism, told News Of The Area, “It can be isolating looking after someone 24/7 and the carers’ trips gave you a break once a month and at other times.”
Carers often have diminished incomes due to their caring responsibilities and such little treats are much appreciated.
Carers’ organisations themselves are concerned about the impact such changes will have on carers.
Carers NSW declined to comment.
By Sarah STOKES