25 September 2017

Canberra's carers to benefit from deliberative democracy

| Rachel Stephen-Smith MLA
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Around 46,000 Canberrans provide unpaid care to family members, friends or neighbours who may live with a disability, a physical or mental health condition or are frail aged. To better support and recognise the work carers do, the ACT Government and Carers ACT are working together to develop a new Carers Strategy.

Throughout the election campaign last year, I talked a lot about the need to find new ways to engage the community beyond traditional consultation methods. So I saw the development of the Carers Strategy as an opportunity to put that commitment into practice.

In August, along with Lisa Kelly, CEO of Carers ACT, I announced that a Carers Voice Panel will be part of the Carers Strategy process. Partnering with democracyCo, Carers ACT is using a deliberative panel to deliver not only broad consultation but informed policy development through in-depth exploration and debate by a representative group.

Registrations for the panel closed recently and letters have now been sent to 64 Canberrans inviting them to take part in the Carers Voice Panel, which will meet for two days in October.

We’ve been keen to ensure the panel captures the views of people whose voices may not be heard through more traditional consultation methods, including young carers. We’ve also sought to ensure that non-carers are part of the panel, for two reasons.

First, it acknowledges that any one of us could become a carer at any time, and enables panel members to consider how their life would change and who they would turn to for support.

Second, I hope non-carers will be able to think about how their workplaces, educational institutions and community groups can change to better engage carers, as carers share their experiences.

Traditional consultation processes can engage more people, of course, and we’re using those as well. Canberrans can contribute through surveys or focus groups, where they are asked to consider what actions they would like to see to support carers, what is working, and what the panel needs to know and think about.

Canberrans are also encouraged to upload a short video of themselves answering the question ‘if Canberra was a carer friendly city, what would it look like?’ These videos will help to inform the work undertaken by the panel and additional policy work in the future.

And that’s really the key. Traditionally, people submit their views and then a bureaucrat or consultant pulls that input together and delivers a report. In this process, the community’s input will be considered by the Carers Voice Panel – the people who are expert in their own lives.

Using that information and expertise, the panel will develop the vision, outcomes and priorities for the strategy, and the Government has committed in-principle to accepting these as the basis for the new ACT Carers Strategy.

I am looking forward to seeing the outcomes from these new methods of consultation.

You can get involved in developing the Carers Strategy here: http://www.carerstrategy.org.au/

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