To receive a Carer Allowance in Australia, a person must provide additional daily care and attention to someone because they either have a disability or a severe illness or are frail aged. There is no asset test, but both the carer and the person cared for must have a taxable annual income of less than $250 000 per annum.
I’ve been a carer for at least the past two years, since my husband’s diagnosis of multiple myeloma. In that time, I’ve discovered that caring for a frail older person with several co-morbidities can frequently be hard work. It often seems thankless and always relentless.
Tiredness has become my constant state, a deep weariness that does not shift. I’m grumpy, anxious, sometimes depressed.Read more
I watch as his family regularly takes annual and other leave. Trips to Europe, the east coast of Australia, to Bali. Frequent long weekends to the south-west of the State.
I’ve become resentful, craving but no longer expecting, recognition for my commitment and effort.
A Carer Allowance, payment from the government, might help me feel better. It would be a validation of my role, or so my flight* of fancy goes. According to the Services Australia website, we seem to be eligible.
Application for a Carer Allowance
First step, find the right application form.
My first foray into this new world ends abruptly after several hours’ work, when I discover I’ve been lured into filling a bogus online application.
I pride myself on being computer literate. But like any eighty-five-year-old, I have my weaknesses.
I finish providing a large amount of information and a pop-up tells me I must pay a ‘deposit’ of $8 for my completed form to be converted into a PDF before I can submit it. There will be an ongoing fee.
Oh, and I need to pay $4 for the privilege of adding an electronic signature to the form.
Backtrack. Do what any sensible person would have done. Go into my MyGov account. Find the Aged Care portal. Discover that’s wrong.
I needed Centrelink, not aged care, because I’m applying for an allowance.
Locate the right, long and daunting form. Note it says I need to have other information available. An online search for details about the additional information reveals nothing. Decide to carry on and see what happens.
My husband and I receive the Aged Pension with a joint assessment. We each get less than we would if we were single or lived apart. Each of our Pension Concession Cards displays both of our Centrelink Concession Numbers.
However, now I’m required to prove my husband’s date of birth and nationality and a photo of his passport.
Eventually I almost complete the form and save it.
And promptly lose it.
Contact with Centrelink
A quick call to Centrelink may solve the problem. But there’s no such thing as a quick call to that agency. A voice tells me the wait before I can speak to a person will be over an hour.
Later, passing the Centrelink office, I think a quick conversation will clear up the problem. Nope! The waiting time to talk to an officer – over an hour. But a kind woman gives me a card with a phone number different from the first I called. This one’s for aged care.
Robots in charge of Carer Allowance applications
At home I call again. A robot quizzes me about the purpose of my call. I’m afraid I’ve strayed into the notorious Robodebt country. She tells me to look online for the solution. Gives me a website address. Then, very politely, says ‘Goodbye’.
Enraged at the run-around, I promptly call back. The robot tells me I’ve already called the number. They’re a cunning lot, those robots! She says she cannot help me. And says, ‘Goodbye’ again firmly, in her sweetest voice.
I’m nothing if not determined. Half-an-hour at the computer and the lost form reappears. I download and print it to take to the general practitioner who looks after my husband’s care.
At the oncologist’s office, I tell him about my decision to apply for a Carers Allowance, and alert him to the requirement for his formal agreement.
‘Of course,’ he says. ‘Of course your should apply. Caring is hard work. Very hard work.’
At last, the validation I craved.
When we’ve talked with the general practitioner early next week, I’ll attach his form to mine and submit both. The agency says it takes around twelve weeks for an application to be processessed and approved. So I’ll wait!
I’m both competent and computer literate. I feel sad for others who will give up making an application for a Carer Allowance becase they do not have the skills to fill in and submit forms online. Perhaps they can turn to others for help. But many will decide it is too hard.
One next step will be for me to write to Centrelink, or to a newspaper with an abridged version of this story. I’ll add a recommendation that the process should be made less complicated. My local member of parliament might be sympathetic. I’ll talk to her.
Road to riches?
Well, hardly! If approved, I’ll receive $136.50 per fortnight. That’s $68.25 a week for constant attendance and care. That’s about twice the amount in a week that a paid carer receives an hour.
But I’ll be grateful. It means the government recognises that I and thousands of others like me provide a service. Our ‘labour of love’ means that fewer old, ill and frail people need care in aged care facilities.
My dream allowance will perhaps pay for a monthly massage and for parking for the many hours we spend each month at hospital and specialist appointments or a coffee to share afterwards. For these things, I will be grateful.
*This post is linked to the weekend blog prompt set by my friends, SueW in Yorkshire and GC in Canada. They blog at Nan’s Farm and The Main Aisle. This week’s word is Flight (as in my flight of fancy).
Here are links to some other health-related posts on my site:
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