'Future of Australia's Aged Care Sector Workforce' Report released - key recommendations include broader workforce and new diversity strategies
In June 2017, the Senate’s Community Affairs References Committee (the Committee) released its ‘Future of Australia’s Aged Care Sector Workforce’ Report (the Report) with 19 recommendations to tackle the changing pressures on the aged care workforce including attempts to attract, train and retain aged care workers, diversity in aged care and the steps which need to be considered to ensure the aged care sector can satisfy the future needs of the Australian community.
The Report anticipates that, by 2055, 22.9% of Australians will be 65 years of age or older compared to 15% at 30 June 2016. The aged care sector therefore needs to grow by approximately 2% annually to be able to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of older Australians accessing aged care services.
The recommendations in the Report focus heavily on the need for the aged care sector to take steps to attract a broader workforce (including both young and mature-aged individuals, and people looking for new career paths) in addition to ensuring the existing aged care workforce receives training to broaden their skill-sets including skills in relation to specialised treatment, such as treatment for dementia and acute and palliative care.
The Committee notes that difficulties in relation to the aged care workforce arise in relation to the increasing expectations of aged care recipients with many expecting greater flexibility in delivery and quality of services. However, the ever-increasing expectation of high quality care requires the aged care sector to attract workers who have the skills to deliver such high quality care. The Committee is of the view that difficulties in recruiting and retaining appropriately qualified staff stem from the poor reputation and perceptions of the aged care sector, poor working conditions (including high client-staff ratios), lack of career paths and low rates of remuneration which need to be addressed by the government.
Whilst a number of submissions to the Committee supported the introduction of mandatory staffing ratios, a number of submissions did not support this approach on the basis it may impose unnecessary regulatory burden and expense on the aged care sector.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners submitted that initiatives to encourage general practitioners to work in aged care should be explored to ensure older patients access general practitioner care in the community and during transitions between care settings. The Australian Medical Association also submitted that greater integration of general practitioners into the aged care sector may make the system more efficient.
The Committee heard that challenges in relation to aged care are also prevalent in rural, remote, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, and culturally and linguistically diverse communities. The aged care workforce faces challenges in relation to service delivery in these communities which ought to be considered in the planning and delivery of appropriate aged care services.
The Committee is of the view that the aged care sector will need to be flexible and adopt new strategies to ensure provision of quality care for these diverse groups including a review of opportunities for eligible service providers who are operating in remote locations to access block funding in addition to implementing a plan to support regional and remote aged care workers and service providers to access and deliver aged care training.
The Report lists a number of further recommendations which the Committee suggests the government’s Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce (the Strategy Taskforce) ought to consider including:
- The development of national data standards to ensure changes in the aged care workforce can be monitored;
- Consideration of the role of informal carers and volunteers in the aged care sector;
- Examination of the minimum nursing requirements for aged care facilities;
- Consideration of the service delivery context in which the aged care workforce is expected to operate;
- Establishment of nationally consistent minimum standards for training and accreditation including establishing aged care as a core part of the nursing curriculum;
- Development of scholarships for those within the aged care industry; and
- Examination of the implementation of consistent workforce and workplace regulation.
What does this mean for you?
The Committee’s recommendations in the Report are an attempt to adopt a holistic approach to ensure all levels of government, consumers and related stakeholders are appropriately consulted through the Strategy Taskforce as, the Report concludes that, there is currently no clear plan in place as to how the aged care workforce will grow to meet the demand for services, especially in regional, remote and diverse communities.
The Committee is of the view that the government plays an important role in assisting to reposition the reputation of aged care within the health community services industry. In this respect, the Committee has commended the Federal Government for the allocation of $2 million in the 2017 Federal budget to establish and support an industry-led workplace strategy, which is expected to be established in July 2017.
Dominique Egan, Partner
Patricia Marinovic, Associate