Candidates to front Gippsland carers

Gippsland candidates in the state election will field questions from frustrated carers this month as part of a forum aimed at highlighting the needs of people with a disability and their families.

In what has become a pre-election tradition, the Gippsland Carers Association is inviting all candidates to take part in the ‘polly panel’ to gauge their views on carer and disability policy.

Gippsland Carers Association president Jean Tops said the forum would focus on three themes: supported accommodation, respite and the establishment of regional carer networks.

Ms Tops said there were families who could not wait for the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in 2020 to access supported accommodation, as there were currently more than 5000 people on the Victorian waiting list.

“The current budget brought down by the Coalition has earmarked an increase of 300 places over the next four years, which is way too small to meet the current crisis,” Ms Tops said.

She said those on the waiting list included people whose parents had died or were in urgent need of more support.

Ms Tops said of the disability and carer funding provided by the state and federal governments, less than 12 per cent was spent on respite.

“It doesn’t matter how much our families in Gippsland are begging, and I mean begging, they’re all being told there’s no money,” she said.

Ms Tops cited one family who cares for 35 year-old twin daughters who suffer from regular epileptic seizures.

“They’ve purpose-built a home for their children for when they’re no longer able to care for them,” she said.

“One weekend a month would not only give the family respite, but gradually introduce the girls to their own home so when the NDIS is rolled out they would have some transition training so they don’t miss mum and dad too much.

“But the government says it can’t be done. That’s so shocking to me.”

Ms Tops said regional carer networks needed to be funded as an “urgent priority”.

“Families in Gippsland are only being kept together by the support we offer them,” she said.

“Carer networks aim to provide information, education, peer support and advocacy where an outreach worker who can come to visit the family home and link them to the services they need and also in part allow families to actually have a voice and say in policy and planning.”

Ms Tops said the association had recently secured a part-time carer mentor to provide outreach from this week for the next two years, but this was achievable only through fundraising.

“We’re giving it as far as we can as a volunteer organisation,” she said.

Ms Tops reiterated carers contributed $42 billion a year to the national economy and she believed Gippsland’s 26,000 caring families would have an impact on local seats this election.

She said so far the Nationals, Liberal Party and Labor had indicated they would participated in the forum.

Members of the public are invited to attend the event at Kernot Hall, Morwell on 21 October.

Registration begins at 9.30am with the forum to start at 10.30am.

For more information, phone the Gippsland Carers Association on 5133 3343.