Taskforce Aims to Attract More Workers into Aged Care
2 November 2017 at 2:10 pm
The federal government is putting together an expert taskforce to address the future of the aged care workforce, with staffing needs predicted to reach almost one million aged care workers by 2050.
The Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt announced the taskforce, which will look to develop “a wide-ranging workforce strategy, focused on supporting safe, quality aged care for senior Australians”, on Wednesday.
“Everything is on the table but there are only two things that matter, safety and quality,” Wyatt said.
“The taskforce will explore short, medium and longer term options to boost supply, address demand and improve productivity for the aged care workforce.
“With Australia’s current aged care staffing needs predicted to grow from around 360,000 currently to almost one million by 2050, workforce issues are vital to the quality ongoing care of older Australians.”
The Taskforce will reference the Senate Community Affairs References Committee’s inquiry into the future of the aged care sector workforce, as well as the workforce-related observations from the government commissioned Legislated Review of Aged Care 2017 and the recent Review of National Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes.
It will be headed by Professor John Pollaers, the chair of the Australian Industry and Skills Committee.
Wyatt said Pollaers offered the taskforce leadership and experience, adding that he wanted Australians to realise that aged care careers were a strong professional pathway.
“Under Professor Pollaers’ leadership, the role of the taskforce will be to consider new thinking and to encourage the incredible opportunities working in aged care,” he said.
“Professor Pollaers brings a strong combination of business leadership skills and international experience to the table including participation in industry innovation, with a focus on education, training and skills development.
“The taskforce is comprised of people with a broad range of experience, both within and outside the aged care sector.”
Pat Sparrow, the CEO of Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), has also been appointed to the taskforce.
She told Pro Bono News that attracting workers into the industry would be one of the main priorities for the taskforce.
“The [priority] that’s top of mind for people is just how we attract the workers we are going to need,” Sparrow said.
“[We need] an enormous boost, and on the back of that there’s a whole range of issues that come to the fore about workforce strategy. How do we ensure staff are trained? How do we attract workers and get the message out about what a great industry the aged care industry is to work in?
“How do we retain and then continue to skill workers, so they can get meet the needs of consumers and operate in the more consumer-directed way that’s demanded of them? We also have an older workforce, so we [need to know] how to support older workers.”
However the makeup of the taskforce has come under attack by the Labor Party, with the shadow ageing minister Julie Collins, and her assistant minister Helen Polley, releasing a joint statement questioning the taskforce’s legitimacy.
“[This] government taskforce explicitly established to review the aged care workforce, has excluded representatives of the aged care workforce,” the statement said.
“Taskforce members finally announced [on Wednesday] include aged care providers, consumers, department officials, special ageing interest groups and academics – but no representatives of the aged care workforce.
“The deliberate snub of unions that represent registered and enrolled nurses, personal care workers and other health professionals that provide care to older Australians completely undermines the legitimacy of the taskforce.”
Labor called for the government to “invite relevant unions” to join the taskforce.
“Without workers at the table it is hard to see how this taskforce will provide any genuine outcomes… this move by Minister Wyatt to now shut the aged care workforce out makes a mockery of the Aged Care Workforce Taskforce.
“Labor calls on the government to do the right thing and invite relevant unions to join the Aged Care Workforce Taskforce immediately.”
In Wyatt’s announcement, he said the work of the taskforce would involve exhaustive national consultation, including with unions.
“The taskforce will reach out to senior Australians and their families, consumer organisations, informal carers, aged care workers and volunteers,” he said.
“It will also consult with many others including unions, health professionals, universities and the health, education, employment and disability sectors.”
Sparrow said it was the taskforce’s duty to guide this consultation, but added that aged care providers had ultimate responsibility for the workforce.
“Clearly the minister has already signalled that they’ll be consultation with a broader range [of stakeholders] and the taskforce is a group of people to guide that,” she said.
“Aged care providers are ultimately responsible for the workforce. We hire people and so ultimately the responsibility for workforce and workforce strategy sits with aged care providers… and we want to engage more broadly with stakeholders around that.
“But there’s a responsibility that sits with providers that none of the other groups have.”
The ACSA CEO said she hoped the taskforce would bring about “some system-wide change”.
“I think what’s happened with the workforce before is that we’ve had a lot of initiatives and pilots that don’t come together. They do good individual things for individual providers, but we don’t end up with systemic change,” she said.
“So what I’m looking for is a strategy that actually allows providers to employ the workers that they want and results in a change across the whole system, rather than just little pockets of good practise.”
The taskforce is scheduled to report to the aged care minister by 30 June 2018.