The upcoming Victorian election will take place on November 24. In the lead up, here’s what you need to know about each key political party and their campaign promises for unpaid Carers, as well as mental health and disability.
Victorian Labor Party
Labor’s re-election campaign prioritises health services, ambulance response times and staffing.
Labor’s support for Victoria’s unpaid Carers and those with chronic illnesses and disabilities centres on:
- increasing awareness of unpaid Carers and their mental, physical and financial burdens to make them a more accepted fixture within the health and human services system;
- increasing funding for unpaid Carers and for organisations that support unpaid Carers;
- ensuring Young Carers receive the education and support services they need to ensure they are not disadvantaged because of their role;
- increasing accessibility of support services for those suffering from disabilities;
- providing financial support for those not covered by the NDIS; and
- expanding access to mental health education programs and support services.
Notably, their $50 million Victorian Carer Strategy, released in July, proposes new and enhanced Carer support, recognition and engagement initiatives. The package was devised in consultation with individuals in unpaid caring roles across Victoria, as well as Carers Victoria.
If re-elected on November 24, Labor will implement more Carer support services, both for caring and mental health assistance, early engagement programs and discounts to ease the cost of living.
The strategy emphasises the following five areas, ensuring that Carers:
- are both mentally and physically healthy and maintain strong social connections;
- are educated and engaged in community and employment opportunities;
- have access to all necessary respite and support services;
- have less financial pressures; and
- receive the recognition and support they deserve.
The strategy will fund additional hours of respite care to ease the load for unpaid Carers, which covers both physical and mental disability.
Young Carers will have access to in-school services, with initiatives to identify students with caring roles and provide guidance and support to help them complete their education, as a massive 96% of primary Young Carers currently do not complete high school, according to 2012 ABS data.
Additionally, all Victorian Carers will receive year-round half price travel on public transport and free travel throughout Carers Week, designed to ease the cost of living for those in unpaid caring roles.
Separate to the Victorian Carer Strategy, Labor is pledging $70 million towards Victoria’s community mental health sector, to provide organisations and staff with increased funding and program facilitation, as well as a Royal Commission into Mental Health.
Labor will also contribut an extra 100,000 hours of respite per year through a boost to the Support for Carers Program. This program will also be expanded to include Carers of people with a mental illness.
Liberal Party Victoria
Meanwhile, the strategy of the Liberal Party centres on increasing and expanding the reach of Victorian healthcare services, in contrast to the Labor Government’s look at early intervention, prevention and support services.
Liberal’s Carer promise focuses on providing Foster and Kinship Carers access to a child’s medical records within 48 hours of the child being placed in their care.
Furthermore, as announced in August, the Liberal Government has pledged $175 million to accommodate the growth of home and community care for Victorians living with disabilities and chronic illnesses, who can safely receive treatment outside of hospitals. This will allow for such individuals to remain within their homes and close to family whilst still receiving the treatment they need.
This facilitation of paid, in-home care will ease the pressure slightly on unpaid Carers, whilst helping individuals with illnesses and disability manage their health before it requires hospital treatment.
Additionally, the Liberal Party of Victoria promise to invest more than $50 million over the course of four years into children and families of children with Autism. The funding will go toward covering education, advocacy and support services; implementing a seven-point plan to assist affected children and families.
Key focuses within this plan are the development of a 24-hour Autism Helpline, and Autism Support Fund for the establishment of community support and education programs, a review of current eligibility criteria for Program for Students with Disabilities funding, and longer-term funding for children making the transition to secondary school.
If elected, the Liberal Party will also contribute $600,000 over the course of three years to the Gippsland Carers Association, which will go towards the establishment of a Regional Carer Support Network. The Gippsland Carers Association currently supports unpaid Carers by providing information, education, advocacy and guidance.
Australian Greens Victoria
Greens policies centred around caring, mental illness and disability in the lead up to the election include:
- Youth Policy; helping youths participate in community life, ensuring early intervention and prevention programs for at-risk youths, and providing access to quality services they need regardless of location or economic circumstances;
- Mental Health Policy; increasing funding for mental health resources, improving mental health education, ensuring those with mental illness receive affordable accommodation, and increasing Government support for Carers of people with mental illness including respite and funding;
- Health Policy; improving resources and support for Carers;
- Education Policy; eliminating differences in education outcomes based on wealth, circumstance, location, etc., increasing support services to address the barriers to education for vulnerable students, increasing specialist teachers and support services in schools, and providing more early intervention services; and
- Disability Policy; giving people with disabilities and their Carers the right to actively contribute to policy making, establishing an ongoing and fully funded NDIS, ensuring Carers and families are not disadvantaged by non-optional costs, guaranteeing an adequate income and support services for people with disabilities and their Carers, and increasing availability of respite and in-home care.
The Victorian Greens have so far promised an increase in Foster and Kinship Carer allowances by a rate of $3500-5500 per annum, as well as a more streamlined reimbursement service for Carers to ensure there is no hinderance to children receiving the care they need.
Additionally, The Greens touch on renewed investments in the mental health system, including funding for a new youth prevention and care facility, dedicated youth support and clinical services and increased funding for those who are ineligible for the NDIS.