Legal Position of Carers NT
Updated on Oct 06, 2022 • 5 min read • 258 views • Copy Link
Legal Position of Carers NT
Carers are an essential part of the health system in the Northern Territory, providing the foundation for the disability, aged, palliative and community care systems. The unpaid work of carers allows vulnerable individuals to stay in the community, reduces the strain on hospitals and public health systems, and increases the quality of care received by those in need. The legal rights of carers in the Northern Territory are recognised under both Federal and Territory law. Carers also have legal responsibilities, depending on their role and the status of the person in their care. This article explains the legal position of carers in the Northern Territory.
Role of carers in the NT
Many Northern Territory residents provide voluntary, unpaid care to a family member or friend, often in addition to their work and home commitments. This care may be required, for instance, because the individual is aged or ill, or has a physical or mental disability. Carers often help with daily activities, such as showering, dressing, feeding and providing transport. Additionally, a carer may assist with medications, organise appointments, and provide social and emotional support.
Carer’s Recognition Act
In the Northern Territory, the Carers Recognition Act 2006 (NT) set out the rights of carers through ten principles:
- Carers should have the same opportunities and rights as other citizens, regardless of their race, age, beliefs, heritage etc;
- Minors who act as carers have the same rights as other children and should receive support to reach their full potential;
- There should be recognition of the valuable economic and social contribution of carers;
- Carers should receive support to enjoy optimal wellbeing and health and participate as much as possible in social and family life;
- There needs to be recognition of carers’ needs (beyond their caring role);
- The relationship between carers and carees should be respected and recognised;
- Carers should be treated as equals by other care providers;
- Carers should be treated with respect and dignity;
- Carers should receive support to improve their situation, and have further opportunities to participate in education and employment; and
- Support for carers should be responsive, appropriate, accessible and timely.
Legal protection for carers in the Northern Territory
All carers, including parents, have legal protection from discrimination. Under the Sex Discrimination Act, it is against the law for employers to directly discriminate against someone because of their caring responsibilities. For instance, an employer cannot pass someone over for promotion because they have children and are therefore less available to travel at short notice. Under the Disability Discrimination Act, it is prohibited to discriminate against a person because of their association with a person with a disability. For example, a store cannot refuse entry to someone with a disabled child.
Privacy and confidentiality
Carers and carees also have a legal right to privacy and confidentiality. Medical professionals must abide by the Australian Privacy Principles and protect a person’s right to privacy under the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988 (Cth). This law protects a person’s right to make choices, see their health record and request corrections, and control the dissemination of their data. If someone believes that there has been a breach of confidentiality, they can make a complaint. Generally, a carer has the right to access relevant medical information about their caree. Health professionals are authorised to share information with carers so that all parties can work together. A carer should ensure that they protect the caree’s privacy and confidentiality. When the carer needs to disclose the caree’s sensitive information, they must ask permission from their caree. They must only provide relevant information and respect their caree’s privacy as much as possible.
When a child has inadequate parental care, the courts can appoint a suitable adult to take over caring duties through a custody order, permanent care order or guardianship order. Guardians in the Northern Territory have many of the same responsibilities as biological parents, but guardianship does not sever the legal relationship between the child and their biological mother and father (unlike adoption).
A vulnerable adult may also benefit from the appointment of a guardian. A suitable person may apply to the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT) for appointment as an adult guardian to someone in need of their assistance. Unlike a carer, who helps out informally with the tasks of daily living, an adult guardian is given the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of the vulnerable adult. A guardian, for instance, may decide where an impaired adult should live and what health care they should receive.
The scope of the guardian’s authority to make decisions for the vulnerable adult is established in the guardianship order. Regardless of the terms of the order, under the Guardianship of Adults Act 2016, an adult guardian may not vote on behalf of the vulnerable adult, make or change their will, exercise their rights as an accused person in a criminal investigation or consent to restricted health care. An adult guardian also cannot make decisions about the care of the vulnerable adult’s children or start or end a relationship on behalf of the adult.
As a carer, you may at some point need legal advice or assistance to help the person in your care. This might be necessary if the caree gets into debt, is at risk of exploitation or abuse, is in trouble with the police, or needs advice on legal affairs. Go To Court Lawyers can provide advice on laws relating to carers or any other matter. Please call 1300 636 846 or use this form to get in touch.
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