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Respite care via Carer Gateway is available for carers despite other carer payments or allowances.


NDIS & Mental Health Engagement officer with Merri Health and Carer Gateway, Nicholas Colicchia, fills us in on what happens when carers seek respite care support from Merri Health, one of the 7 Carer Gateway partners. Nic clarifies that support is available, regardless of other income entitlements like Centrelink or carer allowances. He tells us what to expect, and how to get registered and how to work in with NDIS if they are also involved in your young persons life. There are great supports available. Everything from support for household tasks like meals, laundry or cleaning, to recreational and capacity building programs or even holidays and cultural events. If you are a carer and are thinking about how to self care and make time for yourself, there has never been a better time with Carer Gateway organisations supporting carers with relevant contacts in a very personalised and individualised way.

00:00 - Start 00:47 - Nicholas Colicchia from Merri Health, a Carer Gateway provider 02:15 - Respite care is often the unknown need until you are "in it" 04:17 - Respite care includes everything from capacity building to daily living, personal care, household tasks, recreational activities, holidays, cultural events and more. 06:00 - The benefits of respite care? 07:05 - Who funds the costs of respite care? 07:55 - What training do providers of respite care have? Are they trauma informed? 09:00 - Who are the 7 different providers of Carer Gateway in Victoria? 10:11 - How do you get registered with Carer Gateway? What paperwork or evidence is required? 12:10 - How to work in with NDIS and Carer Gateway


This is Sonia Wagner, representing PCA Families in one of our recordings that capture lived experience and best practice evidence based learning that assist kinship, permanent and adoptive parents/carers in supporting young people. PCA Families has a zero tolerance of child abuse. I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet and pay respect to Elders past and present and express our intention to move together to a place of justice and partnership.

Being able to learn from peers and connect with those who may help us is particularly important. Today we are discussing respite care with Nicholas Colicchia, NDIS and Mental Health Engagement Officer with Carer Gateway.

Welcome Nic.  Please introduce yourself a little more!

00:47 My name is Nicholas and I am the NDIS & Mental Health engagement officer at Merri Health. I am part of the community engagement and program development team which is part of Merri Carer Services. I’m here to chat about the Carer Gateway and provide information about support that is available to unpaid carers.

Carer Gateway provides in-person, phone and online services and support to Australia’s 2.65 million unpaid carers. We don’t have that many registered – that’s how many there are in Australia.

Carer Gateway has many services that can help you with any daily challenges, emotional and financial stresses that you may experience in your role as a carer. A carer is someone who looks after a family member, friend or loved one with disability, a medical condition, mental illness, or someone who is frail due to age.

If you are a carer, you can get help and support through Carer Gateway.

02:15 Respite care is a tricky situation for many of our families. Respite care may not have been considered necessary to arrange until you are fully immersed in caring for someone else.  Often the level of trauma or the challenges of caring for children formed from adoption, kinship care or permanent care are not fully understood until you are in it!

To PCA families, respite care can mean help when facing surgery, a break when managing child escalation and potential placement breakdown or simply a break because its in the carer’s best interests, perhaps because they are managing multiple children.  We offer as much support as we can by phone, but there is nothing quite like getting someone else to step into your shoes so you can have a really well deserved break.

What is the definition of respite care covered by Carer Gateway? Can it be ongoing, rather than a one off situations?

‘Respite’ means taking a break. When you are a carer, it’s important to regularly take time for yourself to rest and recharge. If you need a break, respite care services can look after the person you care for.

It's a good idea to find out more about respite services so you can plan breaks, and so you know what to do to get respite care in an emergency.

Respite care can vary depending on:

  • where you live and what services are available in your area
  • the sort of care needed
  • how urgent your need is.

The Carer Gateway will discuss your needs and advise on what support is available. Remember – help is always available in an emergency.

Carer Gateway offers support over a 12 month period where respite can be planned and there is also emergency respite available.

04:17 Often the type of respite care we are offering is tied to the child, as in finding local activities like camps that they can attend.  For example, some of the common ones our carers have attended have included:

  • Camp Kiah Wallan – therapeutic weekend respite ($950) or school holiday camp program for tweens and teens 7yo+
  • Mirabel Foundation – Family camps to reenergise children and kinship carers
  • Green Super Camp – life skills camp for teens

Do you offer the same service and if so what would be some examples of where you might send children for this type of respite support?

Yes those are examples of what we would refer to as community based respite. Through both federal and state funding we are able to provide carers with a few different types of respite. This includes:

  • assistance with skill development and capacity building, such as the implementation of a specific program under the supervision of a health professional
  • assistance with activities of daily living, including personal care
  • support for the person to undertake activities of their choice during in-home respite
  • support for the carer by undertaking light household tasks such as meal preparation, dishes or laundry, provided these do not detract from the service being provided to the person.
  • recreational activities, holiday programs or social activities
  • shopping
  • a cultural group or event
  • a hobby or club
  • social and community event

06:00 Our PCA Families, like many carers, are not always great at taking time out for themselves for their own self care.  What would you say to them about the value of respite care?

Caring for someone else can be physically and emotionally tiring. It’s OK to want some time for yourself, and taking a break allows you to reduce your stress and recharge.

Planning regular breaks and taking time out can help you to avoid stress.

It’s a good idea to plan ahead because respite services are often busy and can get booked out. Booking early gives you a better chance of finding the respite that suits you, when you want it.

Respite care can also help the person you care for. They may like a change of scene, to socialise and meet new people, or take part in activities not available at home.

07:05 All of these programs are relatively costly, often costing $80-$90 per hour for care. How do you support those sort of costs or would respite be dependent on funding from PCA Families?

There are two approaches we can take to assisting families, both are based on the carers’ needs. Firstly we can assist a carer to connect with an appropriate service such as the NDIS, Aged Care or HACC PYP provider. Secondly, we directly fund respite in some circumstances.

We can’t say exactly what you might pay for respite, because it depends on the needs of the carer, who provides the care, the length of time involved, and the sort of care.  Carers, whether kinship, permanent or otherwise are eligible. As long as the care recipient is living with disability, a medical condition or mental illness (including trauma impacted), then yes, they are eligible for support.

07:55 In addition to that, finding people that are appropriately trained to offer the support required is complex.  How do you go about finding the right providers? What sort of training do they need to do as part of your process? What peace of mind can you offer us that they would be trauma informed in their approach?

All direct care providers have the appropriate qualifications and experience to provide safe, high quality care. For example qualifications such as a Certificate III in Aged Care or Certificate III in Home & Community Care or equivalent. They also have current Police checks and where applicable, have been subject to and satisfied all criteria for placement under the Disability Worker Exclusion Scheme and or a valid Working With Children check. We ensure they have the required skills and experience to provide safe, respectful and effective care to meet the needs of clients.

09:00 We understand that there are 7 providers of Carer Gateway services in Victoria. Can you tell us who they are and where they are located?

Carer Gateway services in Victoria are delivered by a consortium of 7 providers led by Merri Health. Merri Health are the provider in Northern Metro Melbourne - from Yarra to Whittlesea

Alfred Health delivers services to Southern Metro Melbourne - Port Phillip down to Mornington Peninsula

Uniting Ltd (Victoria and Tasmania) deliver to Eastern Metro Melbourne - from Boorondarra to Gippsland out to the Yarra Ranges

Family Care covers Shepperton, Benalla and Mansfield regions

Ballarat Health Services looks after Ballarat, Hepburn and Grampians

Barwon Health is Geelong and surf coast out to Warnambool

And Bendigo Health Care Group does Bendigo and Macedon Ranges

10:11 I understand the first step is to get registered with Carer gateway. How do you go about that? What sort of documentation is required for that for our PCA Families who are either subject to a Permanent Care Order, Adoption Order or Family Law Court Order.

There are multiple ways you can register with Carer Gateway. To access and discuss in-person and phone-based services, you can Call Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737, Monday to Friday, 8:00am - 5:00pm. For an interpreter, call Telephone Interpreter Service on 131 450 to arrange a call to speak with us.

You can also go online and request a call back by filling out your details directly into the system and you should receive a call from the Gateway within 24-48 hours. Alternatively, for those who may not have capacity to make phone calls or complete forms, there is a referral form which can be filled in by an appropriate professional such as GP or community services worker.

There is no documentation required: you just need to provide your details such as DOB and address along with the care recipients’ details, including what support you provide.

To be eligible for services, your caring role needs to be ongoing or likely to be ongoing for at least least 6 months. This does not include palliative care. You also must not be paid or employed to care for the person. But you can receive other government allowances and support such as Centrelink payments or NDIS. There are no citizenship, residence or visa requirements and support can also be provided when a person’s caring role is ending or has recently ended.

Carer Gateway is accessible when you receive payments like carer allowance through DFFH or Centrelink payments. Government allowances do not affect eligibility.

Once registered, an assessment and planning officer will work with you around your goals and what you need support with the most. They will complete a tool called Carer Star Planning where you will be asked about 7 life domains: health, the caring role, managing at home, time for yourself, how you feel, finances and work.

12:10 In the case of a child that has a disability where an NDIS plan may cover the respite costs, what is the first step.  How do our families tag team with NDIS and yourselves? Who is the chicken and who is the leg? Who would carers speak to first?

If a person is eligible for the NDIS, that should be the first port of call. The NDIS will provide life-long support to a person with disability that will assist them to achieve their goals.

The NDIS plan will used to support the person you care for. You will need to talk with the person’s NDIS planner about their support needs.

However, as NDIS plans are tailored to the individual receiving support, core supports do not always meet the needs of carers and families. The Carer Gateway is designed to provide support tailored to the needs of the carer to ensure they are given a break from their caring role.

Support from the Carer Gateway can complement supports provided by NDIS, Aged Care or other services, where many of these services are designed to meet the needs of the person with care needs, the carer gateway is designed to focus on the needs of carers.

We can also provide advice on NDIS such as what you can expect when applying for NDIS and link you in with NDIS Partners in the Community.

Thankyou Nick this has been invaluable advice.

To anyone making the time to listen to this recording, thankyou for giving up your valuable time for the benefit of the young people in your life. 

If you are a kinship or permanent carer or parent needing help or support please contact PCA Families 03 9020 1833. 

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Until next time have an amazing week.



Carer Gateway Respite Care

Camp Kiah

Mirabel Foundation

Green SuperCamp Australia - School holiday camp for teens

Family Contact Service