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New committee for aged care a “watershed opportunity”

Australia’s aged care workforce is and has been at the forefront of change, discussion and debate, but now, it is the recipient of a new Industry Reference Committee (IRC).

The government has announced a new committee dedicated to improving the aged care workforce (Source: Shutterstock)
The government has announced a new committee dedicated to improving the aged care workforce (Source: Shutterstock)

The Committee, made up of consumer advocates, peak industry bodies and employer and employee representatives, is being formed to tackle critical skills and workforce issues identified by the Government’s Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce.

Taskforce leader, and chair of the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC), John Pollaers, is the driving force behind establishing the IRC and it’s review and development of national competency standards for aged care vocational training, helping to facilitate any required education and training reforms.

“The Taskforce has been consulting rigorously and widely to understand the critical touchpoints in the care people need as they age,” Mr Pollaers explains.

“The new Aged Care IRC will be an opportunity for industry and consumers to work together to consider the competencies and skills needed by the workforce, as well as how to incorporate new living well models of care and career pathways.”

Mr Pollaers adds that the IRC needs to be an industry-driven group, with membership reflecting the diversity of the sector, particularly in the areas of palliative care, dementia, nursing, mental health, functional health and pharmacy, as well as including employee representatives and employers.

Consultations with industry and consumer advocates and the IRC will be held to identify barriers to skilling in areas like care planning and management, dementia care, consumer experience and quality of life, end of life and palliative care, family liaison, nutrition and food, mental health, pain management and leadership.

“Bringing about real change requires a whole lot of community and industry effort,” he says.

“We need to examine entry-level qualifications and career pathways, along with recognition of the full range of competencies required as we move toward living well models of care and recognise the benefits of integrated care.

“As aged care evolves to become more consumer-centred, service providers and employees will need to strengthen their workforce with access to a broader range of skills and competencies, delivered through flexible training options.”

He says the industry’s feedback highlights a number of areas to strengthen the current education and skilling programs to produce job-ready graduates with the right “technical and behavioural skills”, adding that the IRC is a “watershed opportunity” to help ensure the education and training system says ahead of industry and community expectations and provides safe, quality care from all Australians.

Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, Karen Andrews, and the Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, have both welcomed the IRC’s establishment and what it aims to deliver the industry and its consumers.

“The new IRC is an example of an industry-led system responding to significant workforce issues and driving change,” Minister Andrews says.”

“...it has come about because the sector is telling us there is a clear case for change.

“Through IRCs, we put industry front and centre in determining the skills and knowledge students and employers need, both now and into the future.”

Minister Wyatt says the new IRC will play and “important role” in Australia’s wider aged care reform by bringing industry together to help drive the necessary competencies and capabilities to deliver safe, quality care.

“Aged care is an exciting and rapidly expanding field, with growing professional and career opportunities [and] I welcome this first major announcement from the Taskforce, and I complement its close collaboration with the Health, Education and Training portfolios,” he says.

The final membership of the Aged Care IRC is expected to be announced in the first half if the year.

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