This report analyses the role of volunteering and informal care in the Australian healthcare system. Working of informal carers in current times and future are evaluated. It was found that informal carers exhibit several types of responsibilities such as assisting patients in bathing, cooking, scheduling appointments and others. After this, various policies supporting the participation of volunteers and informal carers are analysed in the report. This analysis has drawn an understanding of policies related to carer payments and allowance, which are established in Australia to support volunteers. However, specific gaps in policies are also found, such as lack of access to policies by informal carers in rural areas of the country. Therefore, the report further highlights some strategies to fill these gaps in future like awareness programmes. Lastly, action plans of the workforce are also mentioned in the report, such as social media campaigns.
Table of Contents
Current and future role of informal carers and volunteers within the aged care workforce.
Policies supporting the participation of volunteers and informal carers in the aged care workforce
Strategies to assure growth in volunteers and informal carers participation in the aged care workforce into future.
Action plan of workforce.
As per the report disclosed by The Community Affairs References Committee of the Senate in the year 2017, the aging workforce is one of the most significant challenges being faced within the healthcare sector of Australia (Aph.gov, 2017). For this reason, the inclusion of informal carers and volunteers is recommended within the aged care workforce to enhance efficiency.
The purpose of this report is to explore the roles that can be exhibited by informal carers and volunteers within the healthcare sector of Australia. The report emphasises on current and future roles corresponding to the carers. A keen focus on policies established by the Australian government to encourage the participation of informal carers and volunteers is given in the report along with exploring certain gaps. Also, the report develops an understanding of strategies, which may assure that volunteers and informal carers acquire adequate growth in public healthcare of Australia.
Informal carers and volunteers can be understood as individuals offering care services to people in their family members and relatives. Informal carers assist patients as well as their family members who are suffering from physical and mental health issues. Various studies indicate that informal carers and volunteers play an important role in current times. The survey conducted by ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) suggests that more than 2.7 million informal carers were in Australia in 2015 (aihw.gov, 2019). Also, it was found that 1 in every 10 Australian people was serving as an informal carer. This figure increased to 2.8 million in the year 2020 (Deloitte, 2020). It can be analysed that there are millions of people in Australia who are dependent on the care received from informal carers and volunteers. These carers assist the individuals in need with their daily activities and act as responsible persons who are accountable for taking care of people facing some physical and mental issues.
In current times, major roles or responsibilities, which are performed by informal carers and volunteers in the healthcare sector of Australia, include providing timely medication to patients, making appointments with physicians and doctors as well as assisting with personal needs such as bathing, cooking and many others (Willis, Reynolds & Keleher, 2016). Individuals having physical or mental health issues trust their family members more than professional nurses. For this reason, patients easily follow instructions, which are given by their relatives (who are working as an informal carer or volunteer). Also, these carers may assist patients with different health issues round the clock, which could be impossible for professional nurses (Horsfall, Leonard, Rosenberg & Noonan, 2017). Hence, it can be analysed that these carers and volunteers play an important role in assisting patients due to whom the number of these carers is increasing in Australia.
Considering the role of informal carers and volunteers in Australia in future; it can be said that there are vital possibilities that informal carers can be considered as formal or professional care workers. It is because informal carers acquire years of experiences of assisting people, which can be used to assist the people by providing formal training (Do, Norton, Stearns, & Houtven, 2015). Also, the government may establish more policies and norms to enhance the role of informal carers towards communities rather than towards their relatives.
Some of the prominent policies, which are found supporting the role of volunteers and informal carers in Australia, are described in the following manner.
Eligibility criteria set by the government of Australia for carer payment and allowances are the biggest gaps to be acknowledged. Volunteers and informal carers are required to present formal documents about their previous employment to acquire carer payments. Various studies suggest that there are thousands of informal carers and volunteers, which never had any formal employment (DeLaune, McTier & Tollefson, 2019). For example, children who assist their parents as informal carers cannot acquire the benefits of such supportive policies as they have no record of previous employment.
The above figure helps understand the prevalence of informal carers below 15 years, which often have no employment history. Therefore, these carers are deprived of the benefits of supportive policies. It is one of the noticeable loopholes in access to supporting policies in Australia.
Awareness related issues can also be considered as gaps in policies to support informal carers and volunteers in the country. It is found that informal carers in urban areas are well aware of such interventions. But, carers and volunteers in rural areas are hardly aware of allowances and aids provided by the government (Crisp, Taylor, & Douglas, 2012). Hence, support policies corresponding to informal care and volunteering are new well implemented in the Australian healthcare system.
Following strategies can be considered to assure growth in volunteers and informal carers participation in the aged care workforce.
Campaigns: Various campaigns can be established to implement the proposed strategy of enhancing awareness about supportive policies;. Ministry of health in Australia may establish and promote campaigns through which these policies can be promoted especially in rural areas (DeLaune, McTier & Tollefson, 2019). Promotion of campaigns through physical and digital mediums may allow volunteers and informal carers living in the country to acknowledge and access supportive policies. For this purpose, supportive policies can be promoted through hospitals and care homes located in different cities and rural areas. At the same time, social media campaigns can be launched through which informal carers may access information about the benefits of allowances and payments.
Actions of NGOs and non-profit social organisations: These organisations may conduct surveys in prominent cities of Australia and rural areas in which access to supportive policies set by the government can be evaluated (Willis, Reynolds & Keleher, 2016). Also, NGOs and non-profit organisations may highlight the under-aged informal carers and volunteers before the government so that required changes can be made in the policies and strategies.
The above report is conclusive enough to say that informal carers and volunteers in Australia have an important role in current and future context. These carers assist their family members and relatives in various activities such as scheduling an appointment with doctors, providing medication and many others. In future informal carers and volunteers can be considered as professional carers by the government as they have enough experiences of providing care. Further, it can also be said that the government in the country has set several policies to encourage the participation of these carers and volunteers such as financial support, carer payment and so on. Also, it can be concluded that these policies have certain gaps because not everyone in Australia can access them. So, workforce strategies to enhance awareness and evaluation of the family condition of volunteers and under-aged informal carers can be established. For this purpose, social media and physical campaigns can be greatly useful.
Aihw.gov. (2015). Informal carers. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/fad26891-17f6-4a52-a95d-219570189268/AW15-2-4-Informal-carers.pdf.aspx#:~:text=Informal%20carers%20provide%20help%2C%20support,life%20health%20conditions%2C%20and%20disability.
Aihw.gov. (2019). Informal carers - Australian institute of health and eelfare. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/informal-carers
Aph.gov. (2017). Community affairs references committee. Retrieved from https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Community_Affairs/AgedCareWorkforce45/~/media/Committees/clac_ctte/AgedCareWorkforce45/report.pdf
Crisp, J., Taylor, C. & Douglas, C. (2012). Potter & Perry's Fundamentals of Nursing - AUS Version - E-Book. USA: Elsevier Health Sciences
DeLaune, S. C., McTier, L. & Tollefson, J. (2019). Fundamentals of Nursing: Australia & NZ. Australia: Cengage Learning Australia
Deloitte. (2020). The value of informal care in 2020. Retrieved from https://apo.org.au/sites/default/files/resource-files/2020-07/apo-nid307225.pdf
Do, Y. K., Norton, E. C., Stearns, S. C., & Van Houtven, C. H. (2015). Informal care and caregiver's health. Health economics, 24(2), 224-237.
Horsfall, D., Leonard, R., Rosenberg, J. P., & Noonan, K. (2017). Home as a place of caring and wellbeing? A qualitative study of informal carers and caring networks lived experiences of providing in-home end-of-life care. Health & place, 46, 58-64.
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OECD, (2020). OECD Health Policy Studies Who Cares? Attracting and Retaining Care Workers for the Elderly. USA: OECD Publishing
Willis, E., Reynolds, L. & Keleher, H. (2016). Understanding the Australian Health Care System. Australia: Elsevier Health Sciences
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