4436.0 - Caring in the Community, Australia, 1998  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 23/08/2000   
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August 23, 2000
Embargoed: 11:30 AM (AEST)

ABS: Many carers suffer financially, lose sleep

Almost half (46 per cent) of Australia's primary carers - those providing the most assistance to people with one or more disabilities - reported a worsening in their financial situation since taking on the caring role, a new Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) report published today has shown.

The report, based on a 1998 survey, showed that parents providing care were most adversely affected, with more than one-third (37 per cent) reporting an increase in expenses and a further 23 per cent reporting a decrease in income.

For primary carers, sleep interruption was the most commonly reported effect of caring, impacting on half (51 per cent) of those living with their care recipient and almost one-quarter (23 per cent) of those providing primary care to someone in another household.

Many primary carers claimed that their friendships and relationships with other family members had not been affected by the caregiving role (56 per cent and 31 per cent respectively). Of those affected, more than half (61 per cent) felt they had lost or were losing touch with friends, and 47 per cent said they had less time to spend with other family members.

Almost half (44 per cent) of those providing primary care to someone in their own home spent 40 or more hours per week in the caring role.

In regard to respite care, most primary carers (376,100 or 84 per cent) said they did not need (or need more) access. Of those who did, two-thirds (67 per cent) were in the 35 to 64 year age group, when people are most likely to still be working or to have dual caring responsibilities. Most expressed a need for more access at short notice or on an irregular basis.

There were 2.3 million carers in Australia in 1998. Of the carers identified, one in five (450,900) were primary carers.

Women accounted for more than half (56 per cent) of all carers, and the greater proportion of primary carers (73 per cent of those under 65 and 62 per cent of those over 65). They were also more likely than men to be providing assistance to someone outside their own home.

Carers and work
    • Carers represented 13 per cent of people employed full-time, and 20 per cent of those not in the labour force.
    • More than half of all carers (59 per cent) combined their caring role with some sort of paid work, and most of them worked full-time.
    • Primary carers were less likely to be in full-time employment than other carers and people not in a caring role.
    • The most commonly perceived barrier to employment, among primary carers, was a lack of alternative or suitable care arrangements (29 per cent). This is reflected in the discrepancy between the number of primary carers who expressed a desire to work (76,800) and the number actively looking for work (21,100).

Details are in Caring in the Community (cat. no. 4436.0) available from ABS bookshops in all capital cities. A more detailed summary of points of interest can be found on this site. If you wish to purchase a copy of this publication, contact the ABS Bookshop in your capital city.