Family and friends of people with mental ill health save the Australian economy $13.2 billion a year
Research undertaken by the University of Queensland and commissioned by MIND Australia has calculated that there are at least 240,000 family members and friends across Australia providing ongoing unpaid care to someone close to them aged 16 and over who is living with a mental illness. The annual cost to replace this care with paid staff was estimated at $13.2 billion. This figure is even more significant given that the total annual spend on all mental health services nationally is only around $8 billion.
These figures are conservative
Despite the significant numbers highlighted in the research, these numbers are conservative. Due to community attitudes around mental illness, and the fact that many people do not think of themselves as ‘carers’, many caring roles remain hidden from official statistics. Young people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and people from culturally diverse backgrounds are less likely to be identified in their caring roles.
So who cares for the carers?
In combination, Commonwealth and state governments spend around $1.2 billion in supporting family members and friends to carry out their caring role. The vast majority of this figure is Commonwealth funded income support to those carers who are unable to take on paid work due to the hours required to provide care at home. If the carer is on a low income, they are able to apply for the Commonwealth funded Carer Payment, a means tested payment equivalent in value to the Age Pension. In calculating the total economic contribution of unpaid carers, this $1.2billion annually provided to carers has been subtracted.
So is there help planned for carers in the future?
- Once the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is rolled out (anticipated to be end of 2020), around 226,000 people with serious mental health issues may no longer be eligible for support they currently receive – there is deep concern that this shortfall will have to be met by the person’s family members and friends.
- Carers are not participants of the NDIS and will not receive an assessment of their needs.
- As the Commonwealth and state governments direct funding into the NDIS and away from carer supports, another 90,000 carers could lose access to the services that currently assist them in their caring role – we know the consequences of burnout can be devastating for Australian families.
Around Australia, most of the assistance received by people with a mental health issue is provided by family and friends. We have always known that supporting family and friends in a caring role is the right thing to do. Now the economic argument for investing in carers has also been made clear. Sincere thanks to the individuals and families across Australia who contributed their time and knowledge to this research.