4430.0 - Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2015 Quality Declaration 
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 18/10/2016   
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CARERS


The Australian Government recognises the valuable contribution that those who provide unpaid care to older people (aged 65 years and over) or people with disability make to the lives of those for whom they care. The Carer Recognition Act 2010 formally acknowledges this valuable social and economic contribution and aims to increase recognition and awareness of the role carers play in providing this care. While caring can be very rewarding for the carer, the time taken to care for someone can impact on the carer's ability to remain engaged in the community, participate in the workforce and stay healthy.

The SDAC categorises carers according to whether they are the primary carer, an unconfirmed primary carer, or an other carer (for more information, see Appendix – Carers). While the SDAC collects data on all carers, there is a particular focus on primary carers, who are those who provide the most informal assistance to people with disability. The survey collects more detailed information about these primary carers, including the reason they became a carer and the impact it has had on their life. Primary carers are also asked whether a fall-back carer exists who can take on their caring responsibility if they were unable to do so.

The following commentary on carers refers to primary carers, other carers (non-primary carers) and all carers (which is the sum of primary and other carers). Unless specified, where carers are mentioned, this refers to all carers. See Carers Definition table below.

Carers definition

Characteristics
All (informal) carers

Primary carersOther carers


Age of carer
15 years and overAll ages

Carer role
Main provider - provides the most assistance of all informal providers of careNot the main provider of informal care

Recipient
People of all ages with disabilityPeople of all ages with disability and older people (aged 65 years and over) without disability

Footnote: For more information, see the Appendix - Carers


Population characteristics

Of the almost 2.7 million Australians that were identified as carers in 2015, around 856,100 (31.7%) were identified as primary carers. The average age of primary carers was 55 years compared with 48 years for other carers. There were approximately 59,100 carers aged under 15 years identified in 2015, down from 74,800 in 2012.

Primary carers were more likely to live with disability themselves (37.8%), compared with non-carers (15.7%). Proportionally, male primary carers were more likely to report living with disability than female primary carers (42.3% compared with 35.6%). However, similar proportions of male and female primary carers reported having a profound or severe limitation (8.8% of male primary carers compared with 7.1% of female primary carers). These levels of limitation are described in more detail in the Glossary.


Conceptual Framework: All persons living in households, by carer status and whether has disability, 2015

Image: Conceptual Framework: All persons living in households, by carer status and whether has disability, 2015

Source: ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings—2015


As in 2012, the 2015 SDAC showed that females made up the majority of carers, representing 68.1% of primary carers and 55.5% of all carers. There were similar proportions of male and female other carers (50.3% and 49.7%, respectively).

Among people aged 55 to 64 years, the number of female primary carers (134,500) was almost double the number of male primary carers (70,800). However, the number of male and female primary carers aged 75 years and over was similar (45,300 males and 44,400 females).

Graph Image for Primary carers, by age and sex, 2015

Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings—2015



The proportion of Australians who were carers generally increased with age until 65 years, from 1.3% of those aged under 15 years to 19.9% of those aged 55 to 64 years. After the age of 65 years, the proportion of female carers declined (from 20.0% of those aged 65 to 74 years compared with 12.8% of those aged 75 years and over), whereas the proportion of male carers remained similar (from 19.3% of those aged 65 to 74 years compared with 20.9% of those aged 75 years and over).

Graph Image for Carer status, by age and sex(a), 2015

Footnote(s): (a) By definition, primary carers are aged 15 years and over

Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings—2015



Recipients of care


The SDAC collects information about both the carer and the recipients of care, allowing for comparison of this relationship, which varies with age. The experiences of carers may also vary depending on the different disabling conditions and characteristics of the people for whom they care.

Similar to 2012, the 2015 SDAC found that primary carers were more likely to be the partner of their main recipient of care (40.0%), compared with any other relationship. Of the primary carers who were the partner of the recipient, over half of these carers were aged 65 years and over (51.9%). People who were the primary carers for their parent were most likely to be aged 45 to 64 years (62.7%), and parents caring for their child were most likely to be aged 25 to 44 years (47.1%). In addition, parents who were caring for their child were much more likely to be female (88.0%).

The majority of primary carers (79.3%) resided in the same household as the person for whom they provided the most care. Of those primary carers whose main recipient of care did not live with them, most were caring for a parent (67.0% or around 119,400 primary carers). Primary carers aged 45 to 64 years were the most likely to care for someone who did not live with them (66.3%).


Activities with which assistance was provided

The support provided by carers is often extensive, covering a range of activities from eating and bathing to assisting with health care, financial management and property maintenance. The 2015 SDAC asked carers whether they assisted with a broad selection of both core and non-core activities. These activities are described in more detail in the Appendix - Carers.

Core activities

Three-quarters of primary carers responded that assisting their main recipient of care with mobility tasks (75.5%) was part of their caring role. This often involved helping them move around away from the home (65.9%) or helping them get into or out of a bed or chair (32.0%).

More than half of primary carers reported assisting or supervising the person to whom they provide the most care with self-care (59.1%) and communication activities (54.3%). In relation to self-care, dressing (44.9%) and bathing and showering (36.8%) were the main activities where support was provided. Around one in five primary carers (18.5%) indicated that their support included providing assistance with toileting activities.

Non-core activities

Graph Image for Primary carers aged 15 to 64 years - Type of assistance provided with non-core activites(a), 2015

Footnote(s): (a) Primary carer may have provided more than one type of assistance

Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings—2015



Apart from these core activities, more than half of the primary carers also assisted their main recipient with non-core activities. Almost nine out of ten primary carers indicated that they assisted with transport (85.6%) and, in particular, driving the person for whom they care to places away from home (75.4%). Almost eight out of ten primary carers reported providing cognitive and emotional support (79.4%). Most often, this referred to coping with feelings or emotions (72.7% of primary carers).


Reason for taking on a carer role

There are many reasons for taking on a caring role. Similar to 2012, the 2015 SDAC found that primary carers reported that the most common reason was a sense of family responsibility (66.9%). The next most common reason was a feeling they could provide better care than anybody else (50.3%), followed by a feeling of emotional obligation to undertake the role (44.2%). When the person being cared for was an older person (aged 65 years and over) it was more likely that no other friends or family were available to take on the caring role (34.7% compared with 27.5% for recipients aged under 65 years).

Graph Image for Primary carers - Reasons for taking on caring role, by age of main recipient of care, 2015

Footnote(s): (a) Proportions have been calculated excluding the ‘not stated’ responses (b) Persons may have provided more than one reason for taking on caring role

Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings—2015


The reasons primary carers reported for taking on the caring role also varied depending on the relationship of the carer to the main recipient of care. People who were caring for their parent were most likely to report that they felt it was the responsibility of a family member to provide the care (77.4%), compared with parents caring for their children (66.9%) and partners (64.8%). A higher proportion of parents reported that they had no other choice in taking on the caring role (31.8%), compared with partners (22.8%) and children (14.3%) of the recipient of care.


Graph Image for Primary carers - Reasons for taking on caring role, by relationship to main recipient of care(a)(b), 2015

Footnote(s): (a) Proportions have been calculated excluding the ‘not stated’ responses (b) Persons may have provided more than one reason for taking on caring role

Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings—2015




Employment

Caring can impact on a person's ability to participate in employment. Overall, the labour force participation rate for carers aged 15 years and over has remained steady from 2012 (56.3%) to 2015 (57.2%). For those aged 15 to 64 years, the labour force participation rate for primary carers (56.3%) and other carers (77.2%) was lower than that for non-carers (80.3%). Carers aged 15 to 64 years were less likely to be employed, (66.0%) compared with non-carers (75.9%). Of that age group, 73.0% of males who were carers were employed compared with 60.8% of females.

In addition, the carers providing more hours of care were less likely to participate in the labour force. Of primary carers aged 15 to 64 years who provided less than 20 hours of care per week, 69.4% were employed, while the rate was 45.6% of those spending 20 to 39 hours and 35.5% of those spending 40 hours or more caring.

Graph Image for Primary carers aged 15 to 64 years - Time spent caring for main recipient of care, by labour force status of carer, 2015

Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings—2015




Income

As identified in the previous section, undertaking a caring role affects a carer’s ability to participate in the labour force. It therefore follows that caring can also impact on the financial situation of the carer and members of their household. The following information refers to carers aged 15 to 64 years that reported their income. The 2015 SDAC showed that carers were more likely than non-carers to live in a household with an equivalised gross household income in the lowest quintiles. In particular, 50.0% of primary carers lived in a household in the lowest two quintiles for equivalised gross household income, compared with 26.3% of non-carers. Conversely, only 11.3% of primary carers lived in households with equivalised gross household incomes in the highest quintile, compared with 25.7% of non-carers.

Primary carers were less likely to report wages or salary as their main source of personal income (38.7%) than other carers (59.2%). The main source of personal income for primary carers was similarly wages and salary (38.7%) and government pension or allowance (42.7%), while wages and salary was the main source for non-carers (65.4%).

More than half of primary carers aged 15 years and over reported their main source of personal income as a government pension or allowance (51.4%). However, this population includes primary carers aged 65 years and over, of whom, the majority (73.8%) reported government pension or allowance as their main source of income.


Social and community participation

The time and resources required for caring can affect a carer’s social well-being. This may include the carer’s ability to participate in their community and interact with their family and friends. The SDAC collects data about primary carers’ social, community and civic participation, both with and without their main recipient of care.

In 2015, almost all primary carers (94.2%) had participated in one or more social activities away from their home in the three months prior to the survey. Three-quarters of primary carers had done so without the person for whom they cared (76.0%). The more hours of care provided each week was related to primary carers being less likely to participate in activities outside of the home, and particularly in doing so without the main recipient of care. Two-thirds (65.2%) of people caring for 40 hours or more per week had participated in social activities away from the home in the last three months without the person they care for, compared with 85.8% of those who spent less than 20 hours caring per week.

More than three-quarters of primary carers reported participating in at least one cultural or physical activity, away from the home, in the previous 12 months (79.3%), and 64.1% reported they had done so without the person for whom they care. Those carers who provided care for more than 40 hours each week were less likely to have participated in cultural or physical activities without the person for whom they cared than those who provided care for less than 20 hours per week (52.2% compared with 74.3%).

Similar to the general population, a primary carer's participation in selected cultural or physical activities, away from the home, decreased as they got older. The 2015 SDAC found that 85.3% of 15 to 34 year old primary carers reported having participated in at least one activity in the previous 12 months, compared with 73.2% of primary carers aged 65 years and over.