Paid Parenthood

By Jim McVeagh 11/01/2010


I saw this headline on Stuff and thought “about time”.

Parents win disabled children care payment case

Sadly, it turns out only that parents with adult disabled children have won the support of the Human Rights Tribunal, not the government itself.

Currently only caregivers who are not related to the disabled adult receive payment from the government. Family members, even ones who have to give up their livelihoods to care for their disabled children, brothers and sisters, receive nothing at all (they can, of course, claim unemployment benefits but this is well below the amounts paid to caregivers).

This is an anomaly that should have ended a long time ago. It is absurd that a complete stranger can be paid a salary to look after a disabled adult, but that a family member must provide the same service for free. This often places unnecessary hardship on the family of disabled adult children, despite the fact that paying them would likely cost the government little or no money. This is because more people would be willing to look after their disabled loved ones and the government could pay only their salaries and no agency fees.

For those who say that such a system could be open to abuse, I say it is far less likely that family would provide a poor level of service to their disabled adult child than an agency whose sole interest is in being paid.

My feeling is this should also be extended to the elderly although here there is certainly more potential for abuse, as elder abuse is unfortunately very common. However, I see no reason why safeguards cannot be put in place (as long as they are not too intrusive). Families that look after their infirm and disabled generally do well as family units, apart from the stresses of the financial drain.

I sometimes wonder if we have some sort of fixation about only letting external agencies access government funding, rather than the families who need it. It is time to remove this strange anomaly from our health and disability services.

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