Sonia is a busy mum of four. Her youngest child is Darcy. Sonia and her three older children are his carers, and since April 2020, they been receiving support from Carer Gateway.

A family of carers

Carer Gateway Darcy

Pictured: Darcy

Sonia and her family live in the Central West region of New South Wales. Sonia’s husband is away often, managing a family farm and driving long-haul trucks. Sonia and her three older children are full-time carers for youngest child, Darcy.

Since April 2020, they have been receiving support from Carer Gateway, an Australian Government program providing free services and support for carers.

Carer Gateway’s support is tailored to an individual carer’s needs and worked out through one-on-one assessments. Depending on a carer’s circumstances and goals, supports can include in-person and online peer support groups, tailored support packages to help with accessing things like planned respite and transport services, in-person and phone counselling, in-person and online self-guided coaching, online skills courses, and emergency respite.

Early on, Sonia took part in Carer Gateway peer support groups in person, and online, and has been able to make meaningful connections through social gatherings and events. More recently, she has been supported with coaching, skill building and technology, to help her get back into the workforce.

“Carer Gateway will support as much as they can to make things easier,” says Sonia. “It’s a broad landscape of what they can help with, I have found. I think the best way to navigate Carer Gateway is to go into it with some thought about what you really need to be supported.”

Supporting young carers

Carer Gateway Sonia's Family

Pictured L-R: Sonia, Darcy, Jessie, Jack, and Paddy

As Sonia’s older children also help with Darcy’s care, they’re acknowledged as Young Carers and are able to access valuable support services. Throughout the years, this has included guidance from a peer support worker, facilitating access to tutoring, school essentials and technology, opportunities to attend holiday camps, and aid with school fees through the Young Carer Bursary Program.

“The Carer Gateway people who work with kids know what they’re doing. They come and they interview the kids one by one, sit down with them, work out where they are with their schooling. They can offer tutoring, they can offer counselling if they need some, like social work or someone to talk to if they’re not coping with their role, plus things like help with laptops and technology.”

Vision for the future

Now, after years of advocating for herself and growing a network through Carer Gateway and her personal support system, Sonia is committed to supporting other families navigating the caregiving journey. One of the ways she does this is by sharing insights from her own experience or contacts from her ‘little black book’ which contains details of a wealth of support resources.

Going forward, Sonia would like to see greater accessibility and transparency through resource guides that would aid all caregivers in accessing the support they need.

“It would be great to have some broad structure in place about what’s available to carers. There people are paying thousands of dollars for orthotics out of their NDIS plans to private companies, not knowing you can access free services at hospitals. Or, if you have a healthcare card, did you know you can enrol in some TAFE courses for free? A lot of people, especially if they are in crisis, often don’t even know what they can ask for support with. I think everything that is available through NDIS and Federal and State government funding should be out there for the world to see.”

Find out more about Carer Gateway here:

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