15 May 2012

Government considering court ruling over carers

9:58 am on 15 May 2012

Health Minister Tony Ryall says he is yet to decide whether his ministry should take a case to the Supreme Court over a ruling that families of disabled people should be paid to care for them.

The Court of Appeal on Monday upheld earlier decisions by the Human Rights Tribunal and the High Court that the Health Ministry's policies of excluding family members as paid carers is discriminatory.

Mr Ryall says the ruling could cost the Government more than $450 million and it is taking legal advice.

He says if the Government accepts the decision, it may be forced to pay for the care of other groups such as the elderly by family members.

The minister says it needs to weigh up the needs of those families against the cost to taxpayers.

The Labour Party says the Court of Appeal ruling is an embarrassment for the Government and to take it any further would be fruitless, while the Green Party says the fear there are going to be hundreds of family members wanting to do this work is misplaced.

Money will be saved, says father

A Thames man who waged a long legal battle to be paid to care for his disabled children says paying family carers will save the Government money.

Cliff Robinson, who cares for his intellectually disabled son and daughter who are now in their 40s, says the Government's claim the policy change will lead to cost blow-outs is unfounded.

"One of their arguments was that families may be commercialised. Goodness gracious, I love my kids to bits, I love them with all my heart and my soul - but I wouldn't have asked for this life.

"How can you commercialise if you're getting a little bit of payment to look after your disabled son and daughter?"

Mr Robinson says paying family carers like himself will actually save the state money, because some families will not be forced to put their children into care.

IHC wants national debate

Care provider and advocacy organisation IHC is calling for a national debate on the value of caring for the disabled.

Advocacy director Trish Grant says many carers not only suffer financial hardship, but are also under emotional and physical pressure and there needs to be more support.

"We as a county can do better in terms of how we value the work that carers do - whether they're family carers or paid carers. We can't afford not to value the lives of elderly people and disabled people in terms of what we pay carers."

Ms Grant says this highlights a major social policy gap, along with a recent court ruling on sleepover rates for carers in their own homes and the debate over pay rates in the aged care sector.