On 18 November 2010, the Australian Government introduced the Carer Recognition Act 2010 (the Act).
The Act includes the principle that carers should have the same rights, choices and opportunities as other Australians. The Act also includes reporting and consultation obligations for certain Australian Public Service (APS) agencies.
The Act identifies the Department’s obligations, which include:
- ensuring that DVA’s employees and agents have an awareness and understanding of the Statement for Australia’s Carers
- ensuring that DVA’s human resource policies have due regard to the Statement for Australia’s Carers
- ensuring that DVA’s employees and agents take action to reflect the principles in the Statement for Australia’s Carers
- consulting carers, or bodies that represent carers, when developing or evaluating care supports.
Awareness and understanding
Subsection 7(1) of the Act requires each public service agency ‘to take all practicable measures to ensure that its employees and agents have an awareness and understanding of the Statement for Australia’s Carers’. With regard to its employees, the Department’s employment policies articulate the requirement to make employees aware of its obligations under the Carer Recognition Act.
The Department is a member of the Commonwealth Carers Forum, which develops and implements the National Carer Strategy, and regularly participates in meetings and consultation workshops.
DVA provides respite services to the veteran community and their carers through the Veterans’ Home Care (VHC) programme. The VHC Guidelines for Assessment Agencies and the VHC Guidelines for Service Providers have been amended to include reference to the rights of carers and the Statement for Australia’s Carers.
Information for carers is provided on DVA’s public website, including links to the National Carer Strategy and Carers Australia and contact details for a range of carer services.
Human resources policies
Subsection 7(2) of the Act requires that each public service agency’s internal human resources policies, so far as they may significantly affect an employee’s caring role, are to be developed having due regard to the Statement for Australia’s Carers.
The Department supports staff with caring responsibilities and considers the principles contained in the statement when developing human resources policies.
The DVA Enterprise Agreement 2012–14 provides access to a range of paid and unpaid leave as well as flexible working arrangements for employees who have to balance work and caring responsibilities. These provisions include personal leave for caring purposes, miscellaneous leave, flex time, and part-time work. The Department also promotes a range of wellness activities that assist employees with caring responsibilities to look after their own health. A replacement Enterprise Agreement is under development and will continue to provide access to a range of flexible working arrangements.
The Department’s human resources practitioners support managers and employees with caring responsibilities by assisting them to access relevant provisions under the Enterprise Agreement, families at work and counselling services through the Employee Assistance Program.
Reflecting the principles
Subsection 8(1) of the Act requires ‘each public service care agency to take all practicable measures to ensure that it, and its employees and agents, take action to reflect the principles of the Statement for Australia’s Carers in developing, implementing, providing or evaluating care supports’.
The Department contracted Carers Victoria to develop and deliver a training package for relevant DVA contracted providers to ensure they meet their obligations under the Act. Between March and May 2013, 17 Carer Awareness training sessions were delivered in all capital cities, except Darwin, to contracted Veterans’ Home Care assessment agencies and service providers.
The Department’s standard deed of agreement includes an obligation for contractors to comply with relevant laws and relevant Commonwealth and DVA policies.
Consultation with carers
Subsection 8(2) of the Act requires that ‘each public service care agency is to consult carers, or bodies that represent carers, when developing or evaluating care supports’.
The Veterans’ Affairs Consultation Framework comprises national and state and territory forums. The national forums include the Ex-Service Organisation Round Table which meets two to three times a year. The membership includes organisations such as Partners of Veterans Association of Australia that advocates for carers of veterans. Consultation focuses on policy, including carer issues policy, programme matters and the operations of the Department.