The Federal Government will introduce a national coaching, counselling and peer support service for unpaid carers under its overhaul of carer services.
The Integrated Carer Support Service, which has been in development with the sector for 18 months, shifts the focus of government-funded carer support services to an early intervention model.
The Minister for Social Services Dan Tehan said evidence shows early intervention, prevention and building carers’ skills leads to better longer-term outcomes and improved wellbeing for carers.
“This is a fundamental shift from the current service delivery model, which is largely crisis-driven, costly and reactive,” he said.
Under the new service model announced this month, a network of Regional Delivery Partners will be established from September 2019 to help assess the needs of carers and deliver or coordinate targeted services.
Regional Delivery Partners will also conduct outreach activities and identify regional needs.
The new services, which will cost the government $85.6 million over four years, will be funded by introducing a means test for the Carers Allowance payment.
Nearly 7,000 people or 1 per cent of recipients will be affected by the $250,000 income threshold, which comes into effect on 20 September this year.
On 19 March, the Department of Social Services launched a competitive tender process to design and develop the new carer coaching, digital counselling and peer support services.
The national carer coaching service will be available as self-guided online modules and as facilitated coaching delivered by the Regional Delivery Partners.
A six-month pilot of the in-person coaching service will run from September 2019 to March 2020 and full implementation will begin in July 2020.
Online coaching will be rolled out nationally from July 2019, with an initial version available in October this year.
The government will also rollout in-person and online peer support programs to increase the social support and networks available to carers. The Regional Delivery Partners will be responsible for running the face-to-face peer support groups.
Carers experiencing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression will be able to access six free hourly counselling sessions delivered online and over the phone. The digital counselling service, which will go live from July 2019, will also be supplemented by in-person counselling, the department said. Carers can choose to receive the counselling in their preferred format.
Peak body Carers Australia welcomed the announcement, but warned government not to rush the implementation of the new model.
“The new integrated carer support services model will extend the range and accessibility of carer supports and address some of the fragmentation of existing services,” said CEO Ara Cresswell.
“While some elements of the model still need to be fully developed and articulated, we support the overall design,” she said.
The department said existing services would continue until the commencement of the Regional Delivery Partners next year.
Watch the department’s industry briefings on the open tender process here.