While greater recognition and support for carers is required, this recognition must not be to the exclusion of addressing the needs and rights of those receiving care. For example, one of the inadvertent outcomes of a policy focus on people with disability as people requiring care can be a perception that people with disability are only recipients of care and income support.11
Another inadvertent outcome is the perception that people requiring care are not capable of contributing or participating to the life of the Australian community. Both people with disability and their carers benefit by improving the independence of people with disability.
HREOC has undertaken considerable work in this area, particularly in relation to people with disability and the right to employment.
HREOC’s National Inquiry into Employment and Disability found that many people with disability want to work and are capable of work but are unable to find employment for a variety of reasons.12
The final report of the Inquiry, WORKability II: Solutions, produced a series of recommendations aimed at better enabling people with disability to secure and retain employment.13 Recommendation 30 suggested the Commonwealth government lead the development of a National Disability Strategy, with a whole-of-government approach, to tackle the myriad barriers for people with disability and employers.
- For people with mental illness, the national consultations conducted between 2003-2005 with the Mental Health Council of Australia and the Brain and Mind Institute also revealed that due to an inability of people with mental illness and their carers to access necessary services and supports, drastic consequences followed for all concerned:
What this cumulative data shows is that after 12 years of mental health reform in Australia, any person seeking mental health care runs the serious risk that his or her basic needs will be ignored, trivialised or neglected. The adverse health, social and economic effects of Australia 's mental health care system falls largely on those with recurrent or chronic disorders and their families and carers. These are some of the most vulnerable people in our community.
In the short-term, the system as it currently operates may result in a failure to provide basic medical and psychological health care, inappropriate use of short term seclusion, confinement or over-reliance on sedating medications. Longer-term, the impact may include deteriorating mental health and wellbeing, suicide, higher rates of homelessness, prolonged unemployment, incarceration or increased financial burden and poverty. Failure to attend to the urgent needs of those with severe mental disorders on a systemic basis may also lead to infringements of the wider rights of the community to reside in a safe and secure environment. For many people, ongoing financial and personal support from family and friends is the only real safeguard against these outcomes.14
Not For Service details numerous accounts of negative repercussions that followed as a result of people with mental illness and their families and carers being unable to access the necessary services and supports when needed. These failures in service delivery were noted across all Australian States and Territories.
Numerous recommendations were made to address the situation to improve access to community-based supports and services and to promote and protect the right of people with mental illness.15
- It is also important to note that many people with disability are also carers - close to 40 per cent of primary carers16 report that they have some kind of disability.17
Three quarters of carers are of workforce age. Carers are more likely to be unemployed or not participating in paid work than those who are not carers.29 However, one survey found that over a third (36 per cent) of primary carers who were unemployed indicated a desire to return to work, particularly part time.30
Recent research indicates that barriers to carers’ participation in employment include the time required to provide care being incompatible with paid employment altogether, and the jobs available to carers not being offered flexibly enough to allow carers to balance paid employment with their care responsibilities.31
HREOC proposes that a national life cycle approach to balancing paid work with all forms of care responsibilities be developed which recognises the universal nature of the need for care.32 For carers, this approach means encouraging and supporting carer-friendly flexibility in the workplace, ensuring that carers are financially supported so that their caring work does not leave them impoverished, and providing practical support and resources for the diverse range of carers.
It also means recognising that many of the workplace flexibilities useful for assisting parents with child care responsibilities are also useful for carers and other groups such as people with disability and mature aged workers.33
The business case for facilitating flexible working arrangements is now well-established. Recognised benefits include improved productivity and employee morale, greater employee attraction and retention, as well as decreased turnover costs.34 The same benefits apply where employers facilitate carer-friendly flexible working arrangements.
Further, the same kinds of flexibility which assist parents to manage paid employment are often the same as, or very similar to, the kinds of flexibilities which may be useful to carers. Examples of carer-friendly initiatives include reduced working hours, flex time or working from home, specific policies that are useful for elder care include capacity to monitor throughout the day through support phone calls, extended lunch breaks to allow for meal preparation and access to carer’s leave to accompany to appointments. In most cases these policies will pose negligible costs for employers. Other useful workplace policies include the ability to take extra leave when paid leave runs out, being able to undertake carer training and support (as well as care itself) and greater promotion of family-friendly provisions generally to encourage acceptance within the workforce so that employees do not feel pressured to resign.
Many primary carers are unable to participate in paid work because of difficulty in arranging working hours, a loss of skills from being out of the workforce and a lack of alternative care arrangements. For many carers, participation in paid work may not be an option while for others part-time work may be the only feasible option.35 Without access to flexible working arrangements and quality part time work, carers can become locked in a pattern of employment inequality, with lower wages and fewer opportunities.
- Governments have an important role to play in supporting employers to provide part time and flexible work for staff with caring responsibilities. HREOC urges the Committee to support Recommendations 7, 8, 9, 18, 19, 22, 30 and 41 of It’s About Time (2007) which outline practical measures to increase support to employers and in turn, to carers seeking to balance their caring role with paid work.
 HREOC is established by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986 (“HREOC Act”). Sections 11 and 31 of the HREOC Act set out HREOC’s functions relating to human rights and equal opportunity in employment respectively. HREOC also has functions under the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984, Racial Discrimination Act 1975, Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and Age Discrimination Act 2004.
 Following the definition adopted by the Inquiry, the term ‘carers’ is used in this submission to mean ‘individuals providing unpaid support for others with ongoing needs due to a long-term medical condition, a mental illness, a disability or frailty’.
 Not for Service: Experiences of injustice and despair in mental health care in Australia (2005). A report of consultations by the Mental Health Council of Australia and the Brain and Mind Research Institute in association with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. Available at http://www.mhca.org.au/notforservice/
 For more detail on HREOC’s findings and recommendations see in particular Chapters 2, 3, 4, 8 and 10 and Recommendations 2, 4, 5, 6, 13, 16, 17, 18, 29, 31, 32, 41, 42, 43, 44 and 45.
 Access Economics The Economic Value of Informal Care, Report for Carers Australia, August 2005, i.
 Disability Council of NSW, Submission 76, 1 (submission to HREOC’s Women, men, work and family Project).
 Not for Service, Executive summary, pages 14-15.
 Not for Service, Recommendations, pages 17 and 18
 Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Social Trends 2005 Cat No 4102.0, 39. The ABS use the term “primary carer” to refer to a person aged 15 years or over who provides the majority of the ongoing informal (unpaid) assistance to a person with disability who has a limitation in one of the core activity areas of self care, communication or mobility.
 Compared with 21 per cent of people aged 15 years and over who weren't primary carers. The higher rate of disability among primary carers partly reflects their older age profile. Nine per cent of all primary carers had a disability with a profound or severe core activity limitation. Consistent with this, eight per cent of primary carers were receiving help with core activities, as well as giving it: Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Social Trends 2005 Services and Assistance: Carers Cat No 4102.0 July 2005.
 It’s About Time (2007) 47-51
 Section 4 Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)
 Sections 15(1) and (2)
 See It’s About Time (2007), 61-64 for more information about how the right should operate
 For further discussion see HREOC’s Submission on the National Employment Standards Exposure Draft, 8-11
 See It’s About Time (2007), 85-86 and Recommendation 15
 See It’s About Time (2007), 85-86 and Recommendation 15
 ABS Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia, 2003 Cat No 443.0 September 2004, p. 49 and 51
 Cited in Access Economics The Economic Value of Informal Care Report for Carers Australia August 2005, 11- 12. See also the Taskforce on Care Costs (ToCC) Where to Now 2006 Final Report 18 October 2006
 Matthew Gray, Ben Edwards and Norbert Zmijewski, ‘Caring and women’s labour market participation’ (2008) 78 Family Matters 28, 30
 For further discussion on this approach see It’s About Time (2007) 39-43
Chapter 6 of WORKability II (2005)
 See for example, Striking the Balance (2005), 98-100 and House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family and Human Services, Balancing Work and Family Report of the inquiry into balancing work and family, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, December 2006, 16-167.
 Carers are more likely to be working part time than full time. See Access Economics The Economic Value of Informal Care Report for Carers Australia, August 2005 at 12 which finds that the age-standardised rate of part time employment for primary carers is 28.8 per cent and for non-primary carers is 21.1 per cent compared to a rate of 17.2 per cent for the general population.
 See It’s About Time (2007), 184-186 for more information.