You’re a worker, not a carer.

I’ve just had a discussion in a closed Facebook group about the term carer versus worker.

A disability support worker had described themselves as a ‘carer’ and I couldn’t help but correct them.

Technically I’m a carer, even if I personally dislike the term. In all honesty I prefer the title of ‘mother’ but that is a discussion for another day.

The discussion was quite civil, but  the disability support worker explained that some organisations describe their disability support workers as ‘carers’, causing some confusion in the industry. Fair enough. I’ve not seen that term used in that context and if I do I will correct them also.  Interchange Illawarra, the disability support organisation I chair, doesn’t use that term for our workers, some who are paid and many who volunteer. The families of the people with disabilities are the carers, and we value them and show respect for their unpaid, often life–long commitment.

Loving a child with a disability is the easiest and most natural thing I’ve ever done. Whilst it’s the hardest role I’ve ever undertaken, it is also the most rewarding and I feel grateful I’m able to ‘care’ for my child, as I was very nearly robbed of the opportunity. I don’t pretend to speak for all carers; this is just my opinion and I recognise we all have our challenges and different perspectives.

I don’t want to devalue the role of Disability Support Workers either. My family could not function the same way without the worker who has supported my daughter with disabilities, as well as my neurotypical’ child, for almost 3 years.  I couldn’t attend conferences or all-day meetings without her.  Our disability support worker is a much appreciated and loved member of our team.  And I know she ‘cares’ for my daughters and the rest of my family, but she is ‘paid’ to support.  The caring is an unexpected bonus.

‘From caring comes courage.’ –  Lao Tzu

So if you are a disability organisation and you refer to your paid (or volunteer) workers as ‘carers’. please don’t.  And if you do, and our paths cross, I will remind you of the following facts:

The Carer Recognition Act 2010 states, “A person is not a carer for the purpose of the legislation if they only provide care, support or assistance either for payment, such as a care or support worker, or as a volunteer for an organisation, or as part of the requirements of a course of education or training.”

A carer doesn’t get paid.  They don’t clock off.  They can’t (and don’t want to in most cases) turn off their feelings of joy and pride, or worry and grief, because their contracted hours have finished and it’s time to go home.  A carer’s shift never ends.  

Susan Wallis

Susan is the mother of 2 delightful daughters, including one with severe and complex disabilities. Susan is also the chair of Interchange Illawarra and a passionate advocate, fundraiser, freelance writer and general big mouth.  Susan proudly supported the Every Australian Counts campaign in the Illawarra, NSW, undertaking every single activity the campaign requested and more.

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Reply to this blog post

Worker, not carer Service Reviews

  1. I have a disability from a spinal cord injury and live by myself in the community. In order for me to live independently, I have funding for disability service provision. This enables me to have support workers assist me three times a day. I myself, and I know many others in similar situations, who have referred to their disability support workers, as carers.
    I only recently through a Facebook disability group had this discussion around the difference between carers and support workers after 30 years of having a disability. Yes I understand the difference between the two. It’s just that for many years I have, out of habit, (and still do) referred to my paid support workers as carers. It is certainly not done out of disrespect for primary carers. I am even aware of service providers using the term “carer” interchangeably with support workers.
    Perhaps over time, as people become aware of the legislation that you quote, more and more people will come to understand the difference between a carer and a support worker.