The Carer Payment: A Double-Edged Sword For Young Carers
The Carer Payment provides a valuable source of income to approximately 9,600 Australians aged 16-24 who provide unpaid care and support to a family member or friend who has a disability, mental illness, drug or alcohol dependency, chronic condition, terminal illness, or who is frail.
Over half of all young carers live in low income households (households within the lowest two quintiles of equivalised household income) and one third of all young carers live outside of a major city. Many young carers also live in lone parent households and are often caring for a parent. Regardless of whether a young carer is receiving income support, young carers have lower levels of educational attainment and workforce participation compared to their non-caring counterparts.
Those that receive the Carer Payment experience additional constraints which may further impact a young carer’s future educational and employment prospects. In addition to being a means-tested payment a person receiving the Carer Payment is subject to what is termed as the 25 hour rule, which prevents carers from working, studying, training or volunteering for more than 25 hours a week (including travel time) without compromising their payment.
When their caring role ends, young carers are likely to require ongoing income support, as many lack the skills and experience to smoothly transition from caring into employment. Evidence shows that carers are less likely to require income support after the caring role ends if they are facilitated into work whilst receiving the Carer Payment (58.1% compared to 82%).However, this is often difficult given the limitations of the 25 hour rule.
The Reference Group on Welfare Reform in 2015 recommended that the age limit at which a person can receive the Carer Payment should be increased to 22 years. However, given the socioeconomic disadvantage experienced by many young carers, this could leave many with limited financial means at their disposal. Instead, Carers NSW continually advocates for the removal of the 25 hour rule as we see this as a significant limitation to young carers’ future career prospects.
This article was kindly provided by Freya Saich, Policy and Development Officer, Carers NSW. Freya submitted a paper for the 2016 Long-Term Unemployment Conference.