Carers Victoria is the state-wide voice for family carers, representing and providing support to carers in Victoria. Working closely with government and support organisations, as well as collaborating with Carer Associations in each State and Territory, they provide consistent supports to family carers.
Caroline Mulcahy is the CEO for Carers Victoria and will be delivering a presentation at the upcoming 4th Annual Younger People with very high and complex care needs Conference taking place on 14-15 June 2016 at the Novotel Melbourne on Collins.
We had a chat to Caroline prior to the event about her background and her role as CEO to lead the charge for change and action for Victoria’s caring families.
With over 25 years’ experience working as a nurse and holding various health roles in the UK, Hong Kong and Australia, how has working in other countries assisted in developing your skills (and career) in a caring role?
Caroline: In developing my career and skill set, I have focussed on delivering health care to patients and clients in a variety of settings – women’s health, neonates, Infertility and IVF services and have been lucky to be offered different jobs as my career progressed from bedside nursing to clinical management, to research and then executive management. I’m fascinated by the way different cultures and other countries structure their health and community services. There are many things we can learn from other jurisdictions and I enjoy traveling and exploring different contexts, constructs, structures and processes to get a job done well with meaningful outcomes.
Your recent endeavours to review, design and plan services has resulted in substantial change for organisations. What does this mean to you, knowing that your work, “leading the charge for change and action” has positively impacted the lives of others?
Caroline: I am extremely proud of my work to date and it is always a great moment when you can celebrate any achievements gained as a team. Reviewing, designing and planning is a mission-led, collaborative and consultative process whereby all levels of staff in an organisation and external stakeholders should be given a voice; only then, can any positive change be made for our clients and customers. Once the review cycle has been completed, it is always motivating and energising to receive positive feedback in any evaluation.
Can you provide any examples of how you and Carer’s Victoria have helped to increase the awareness of carers and caring in our communities, over the last 6-12 months?
Caroline: We have made raising the profile of caring and caring issues an area of focus in our Strategic Plan and have been doing this by various means:
- Media – Various articles on caring i.e. in local Leader Newspapers, in the careers section of The Age, on radio (SBS and Community) and by filming short stories for YouTube
- Government – Lobbying for a whole-of-government Carer Strategy (to align with the 10 Year Mental Health, Disability and Aged Plans)
- Policy – Writing submissions, speaking and commenting at Parliamentary and Productivity Commission Enquiries
- Events – Walk to Care (a fundraising walk), Carers Week events each October, Young Carers Festival
- Sector – We work collaboratively with other organisations to ensure family members who care are part of their work also.
One of the key areas of your core business is to “create innovative services and products to meet the needs and service gaps for carers and the people they care for”. Can you offer some examples of these services and products which have been particularly effective, and why?
Caroline: Carers@work: this program assists employers to create a carer friendly workplace by raising carer awareness, reviewing organisational policies and practices, providing education and training and practical support for carers. The program supports carers in the workplace and enables them to continue to work and care simultaneously while ensuring business needs are met. Research shows that supporting carers in the workplace has many benefits including:
- increased productivity and improved service delivery
- reduced recruitment and training costs
- reduced sick leave and absenteeism
- improved employee morale and retention
Implemented over a period of months, the program is tailored to meet the individual needs of each organisation.
Better Questions Workshops: These 5 hour workshops assist carers to improve their communication skills in order that they can support the person they are caring for to become more independent. By asking better questions, carers can empower the person they are caring for, building their confidence and self-help skills. The workshops help improve a carers relationship with the person they are caring for and provide carers with tools they can use in all parts of their life. They have proven particularly useful for dealing with health professionals.
How important is the collaboration of work across Australia, and what are the most significant elements to growing a national network for carers, and the people they care for and their families?
Caroline: It is extremely important that we work within a National Network of Carer Associations, especially in this period of great Reform. There is a Carer Association in each State and Territory and we work closely with each other to provide consistent supports to family carers. This collaboration means that we can share expertise and experiences, write policy statement, position papers and submissions, lobby both the State and Australian governments, develop national corporate partnerships, apply for tenders and request grants and donations – in essence, we pool our resources to better meet the needs of the 2.7 million carers in Australia, who continue to be the (mostly silent) backbone of our health and community services.
Are there any presentations from the 2016 Conference that you are particularly looking forward to and why?
Caroline: Affordable, accessible and appropriate housing is an area which requires attention and so I am particularly looking forward to hearing the Summer Foundation’s presentation and Deakin University’s presentation on the right to supported decision-making.
To view the upcoming Younger People with very high and complex care needs Conference agenda and list of speakers’ line up – please click here