The role of family, carers and supporters

108. Family, carers and other informal supporters play a central role in caring for, and supporting, people with disability in Australia. Their involvement affects the ability of people with disability to access and engage with a range of systems and services, as well as more broadly, their ability to exercise legal capacity.

109. There are a number of legal and policy frameworks which recognise the important role of people in caring and supporting roles in the lives of people with disability.[112] At a Commonwealth level, there is a National Carer Recognition Framework which encompasses the Carer Recognition Act 2010 (Cth) and the National Carer Strategy.[113] The Carer Recognition Act aims to increase recognition and awareness of the role carers play in providing daily care and support to people with disability.[114] The Act includes a definition of carer, establishes the Statement for Australia’s Carers, outlines different parties’ responsibilities in respect of the Statement and sets up reporting and consultation arrangements for certain Australian Public Service agencies.[115] The National Carer Strategy gives effect to the Carer Recognition Act and complements the NDS.[116] It contains six priority areas for action and is supported by an implementation plan and annual progress reports.[117]

110. Family members, carers and other supporters are involved across a range of aspects of the daily life of people with disability. Their involvement in the context of decision-making varies depending on the nature of the person’s disability and the decision, and may range from informal support, to appointment as a nominee for the purposes of Centrelink or the NDIS, or formal appointment as a guardian or administrator. In the course of this Inquiry it will be necessary to consider the appropriate mechanisms for recognising, and if necessary regulating, these roles.

111. It will also be important to recognise the challenges faced by family, carers and supporters of people with disability. Such challenges may include: access to information, services and supports; financial difficulties; barriers to participation in education, training and employment; and the social and emotional difficulties that may arise from caring for a person with disability.[118]

112. As a result, the ALRC is interested in stakeholder comments on how the role of family, carers and other supporters of people with disability should be recognised in law.

Question 5. How should the role of family members, carers and others in supporting people with disability to exercise legal capacity be recognised by Commonwealth laws and legal frameworks?