Thousands of unpaid carers missing out on help that will stop them reaching breaking point

"Do you know someone who is an unpaid carer?," asks Peter Sparrow, CEO of Carer Support.

"It is estimated that in South Australia, one in six people are caring for a loved one who has a disability, a serious physical or mental illness, or are becoming frail as they age.

Around 34,000 carers in South Australia are aged under 25. That's 2 in every SA classroom.

Yet many of these people do not recognise that they are carers. These 'hidden' carers continue with their commitments without sharing with anyone their additional responsibilities. In many cases, they experience cultural or family pressures which prevent them from identifying as a carer, or feel guilt at admitting they need help.

This week is National Carers Week and we want to mark its significance by raising awareness of the tireless efforts of these unpaid carers, and to let them know that it is OK to get support.

We at Carer Support are one member of the Carer Support Network SA which provide services to carers of all ages and backgrounds, including activities and much-needed breaks from their caring role.

People like Dorothea, 16, who has cared for her nine-year-old brother, Christian since he was a baby. Christian is on the autism spectrum and has a global development delay. Dorothea admits to only telling a few of her closest friends about her role, as some struggle to understand why it takes' up so much of her time. Dorothea comes to us for a bit of occasional respite and the chance to hang out with other people in her situation.

Being a carer can take a huge toll on their own health, family life, financial means and future plans. By having some time out, they're less likely to reach point of exhaustion, which helps them to be able to continue to care.

According to the Australian Fair Work Act, the average full time employee is only entitled to ten days paid personal leave per year. For younger people, carers can end up missing school or beneficial out-of-hours activities and other typical rites of passage of teenage life. Our experience is that young carers can suffer from low self-esteem, worry, sadness and guilt.

This National Carers Week (14-20 October) provides me with an opportunity to recognise and thank carers and to spread the word that there is help out there – whether it's navigating the maze of services and support available, providing back-up to recharge their batteries or a friendly ear to talk to.

Thank you for all that you do."

Peter Sparrow is chief executive officer of Carer Support and Respite Centre and as a carer himself, he is a passionate defender of carers’ rights.

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