Carer Information

Who is a Carer?

A carer is someone who provides unpaid assistance, support and care for individuals who are unable to fully care for themselves. They can be parents, children, sisters, brothers, friends, guardians – anyone who plays a role in supporting someone with their daily living activities and overall wellbeing. Current statistics say that one in nine people in Australia are carers.  Carers save the government billions of dollars every year by providing unpaid support to someone who requires more support than normal. Your caring journey can be for a long time, a short time or episodic.

Research is showing us that prioritising carers’ health and wellbeing is really important and needs to be a focus. Risk of poor emotional, social and physical health are at much higher rates with carers than other cohorts in the community. The impact on financial status cannot be undersold. Fifty per cent of carers provide 20-40 or more hours of unpaid care per week (Furnival and Cullen 2022; Hung et al. 2013).

Different Journeys places a huge priority on supporting carers:

  • The flow on effect is we support the autistic individuals they care for.
  • The caring responsibilities will be more manageable and reduce the impact on the carer’s health and wellbeing. They will have more time and energy to participate in family life, social and community activities, paid work and study opportunities.
  • We are setting everyone up for success – it is a ‘win win’.
  • Carer burn-out is reduced.

Research states caregivers of autistic people experience:

  • significantly greater stress than caregivers of other children with developmental conditions.
  • significantly more emotional distress and are more likely to suffer serious mental health conditions, compared to carers of people with schizophrenia.
  • debilitating stigma, including being blamed for their child’s deteriorating development, and often feel judged, excluded, avoided and/or pitied.

Many carers are unaware of the wide range of community supports and services available to them. Many other carers feel unworthy, or unable to access the supports and services they need.

Different Journeys is currently funded to support carers and parents of autistic individuals. We create non-judgemental spaces, either online or face to face, for carers of all ages to link with other carers in similar circumstances. We replace isolation and judgement with a supportive community.

At Different Journeys we raise awareness of the misunderstood and hidden challenges of caring for autistic people. Our carer education, information and celebration events provide inclusive, safe and supportive environments in which to provide both peer-based and professional supports.

Our individualised, wrap-around peer support programs aim to decrease the prevalence of mental illness and social isolation in the carer community. Through an empowerment model, our work extends to supporting carers and employers to enhance carers’ employment and education opportunities.

“Through our ‘one-on-one’ carer peer support program*, we walk alongside carers to enable them to navigate a complicated support system, empower them to take up opportunities and engage with other carer families in similar situations. We acknowledge that no two journeys are the same and there is no set formula. We are not a crisis service but rather you will get support from another carer who has walked the journey.” – Mel Spencer, OAM, Co-Founder and CEO

* Please note, Different Journeys’ current funding covers provision of services in Victoria.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Lack of assistance
  • Behavioural challenges
  • Decreased social activity
  • Loneliness
  • Financial strain
  • Lack of sleep
  • Knowing where to go to get help
  • Knowing how to use right words to get help.

There are lots of ways to try to look for supports. The first and most obvious place to start is through the National Carer Gateway or Carers Australia which can direct you to the state and territory peak bodies for carers. At Different Journeys we believe the best place for carer support is to go to someone who understands your journey, someone who is walking (not the same) but a similar journey. Through the wisdom and advice of other carers we have found the best sources of information.

Carers can ask employers for two main kinds of support: reasonable adjustments, and flexible work arrangements. A reasonable adjustment is usually long-term, and involves changes to your role or tasks that make it possible for carers to care and work. Flexible work arrangements are for changes to your work location, hours or days. Both should be arranged by discussing it with your employer and making a written agreement about your adjustments or arrangements (or both). Employers can only decline an adjustment or arrangement if it is unreasonable, like it will be very expensive or cause a big change in the business.

Working carers have the same leave entitlements as all other employees. They can also have extra rights to request flexible work arrangements and accommodations to help them support the disabled people in their lives. When a carer's personal leave is used up, carers can still get extra unpaid leave whenever they need, and their employer may not ever punish them for this.

Find out more at the Fair Work Ombudsman's website.

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