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New aged care workforce reform hopes to triple staff numbers

A strategy released by an industry-led taskforce will aim to help Australia’s aged care workforce triple by 2050 to meet demand.

<p>To meet industry demand, the aged care workforce must almost triple, from 366,000 staff to almost one million, a key objective of the report by The Aged Care Workforce Taskforce [Source: Shutterstock]</p>

To meet industry demand, the aged care workforce must almost triple, from 366,000 staff to almost one million, a key objective of the report by The Aged Care Workforce Taskforce [Source: Shutterstock]

The Aged Care Workforce Taskforce’s report titled A matter of care – a strategy for Australia’s aged care workforce, released today and announced by Federal Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt, will help shift attitudes to careers in aged care, while enhancing the quality of life of older Australians.

To meet industry demand, the aged care workforce must almost triple, from 366,000 staff to almost one million, a key objective of the report.

Aged & Community Services Australia’s (ACSA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Pat Sparrow, who is a member of the taskforce, says ACSA welcomes the report which highlights a strategy to tackle the shortage in aged care workers.

“Workforce is one of the most pressing issues for the sector into the future,” she says.

“The blueprint correctly identifies that attracting and retaining the right staff is going to be critical to tackling this challenge.”

Ms Sparrow says ACSA will work with Government to help implement the report’s suggestions of how the aged care industry can be positioned as an attractive career choice, especially for young people.

“Getting this right now means securing the sort of workforce the sector needs into the future with the right mix of skills in those areas of most need.”

She says a career in aged care offers “the rewards of genuine human care and contact” alongside “a high degree of reliability.”

The report addresses the need to change the attitudes towards caring roles and aged care, while modifying community expectations, as well as understanding that increasingly complex care needs of older Australians, with health conditions such as dementia becoming more prevalent.

Council on the Ageing’s (COTA) Chief Executive and taskforce member, Ian Yates, has labeled the strategy “a crucial step in ensuring the Government and sector can manage the unique set of demands and pressures placed on the aged care workforce as a result of Australia’s ageing population”.

“COTA Australia welcomes in particular the recommendations to better reflect the value and contribution of personal care workers and nurses by improving their current pay deficiencies; identifying the appropriate skills mix of staff in a facility; and developing new career paths so workers can stay in aged care throughout their careers,” he says.

“Older Australians constantly tell us that staff attitudes and skills are one of the most important aspects of aged care to them.

Ensuring we can recruit and retain the most dedicated, highest skilled and most empathetic staff is critical to continuing to deliver the very best quality care to Australians in later life,” Mr Yates says.

Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) CEO Sean Rooney acknowledged the wonderful staff of Australia’s aged care industry, describing workforce development as “of critical importance” to the sector.

“We have a dedicated and professional workforce of 350,000 who overwhelmingly deliver good quality care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year in year out, in over 3,000 residential care, home care and home support organisations to over 1.3 million older Australians,” he says.

“This is something our industry is immensely proud of and something our nation is very grateful for.”

Older Australians living in remote areas will also benefit from improved care outcomes thanks to a new and endorsed Industry Accord on the Remote Aged Care Workforce.

“It is also pleasing the needs of remote workers and services has been identified and that a Remote Accord will be developed to ensure that the workforce needs in these areas are actively addressed.”

The report was created with the help of community and senior organisations, families, aged care residents, providers, health professionals and unions.

The announcement follows the passing of the new aged care standards under the Single Aged Care Quality Framework, and a $106 million funding boost from Federal Government to support “better facilities, better care and better standards” in aged care. 

The strategy will be implemented across the industry with the help of Professor John Pollaers OAM, Chairman of the Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce.

“ACSA looks forward to working with Professor Pollaers to deliver on much needed workforce reform,” Ms Sparrow says.

LASA members are keen to be involved in the design and rollout of the taskforce’s recommended actions to make sure they are practical, relevant and adequately resourced, so as to drive meaningful change, Mr Rooney says.

A matter of care – a strategy for Australia’s aged care workforce can be read here

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