Federal Budget 2021: Spend Wisely To Build The Aged Care Workforce
© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
While the Federal Budget numbers are impressive - an additional $17.7 billion in funding over five years to transform the aged care sector - how wisely it is being spent?
Back in March, on the release of the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care, I listed the recommendations I would like to see funded in the 2021 Federal Budget.
The Federal Government was due to respond to the Final Report by the 31 May, conveniently it released its response on the same day that it released the Federal Budget.
Funding for my top five Royal Commission recommendations
So were my "top 5" Royal Commission recommendations accepted by the Federal Government and funded?
In short, "yes, to acceptance" and "to some extent, on funding".
To recap, my "top 5" areas of concern are:
- Building a quality carer workforce and paying them appropriately.
- Promoting volunteering in aged care.
- Implementing a single comprehensive aged care assessment process.
- Eliminating home care wait lists ("to some extent").
- Providing more dementia support.
Aged care workforce: the number one issue
In this blog, I'd like to focus on the workforce - the numbers, training and remuneration.
As I have stated before, you can have a world-leading aged care system but without a quality workforce you'll get nowhere.
In her response to the Federal Budget Val Fell, a 92-year old Wollongong resident and member of the Older Persons Advocacy Network, put it beautifully when she said:
"My big issue is the care workforce. We need the right people with the right attitude doing the job. They need the right training and all should have some knowledge about dementia care.
"And they need the right remuneration. With all the emotion involved in being a carer, why would you do it if you can earn more at a supermarket checkout?"
No truer words said.
Federal Government response to the Royal Commission
In its response to the Final Report of the Aged Care Royal Commission, the Australian Government accepts that it needs to:
- Build the aged care workforce;
- Provide that workforce with quality training, including specific training in dementia care; and
- Remunerate appropriately to attract and retain this workforce.
Spending on the aged care workforce
In its 2021 Federal Budget, the Federal Government announced a $338.5 million investment over three years to grow, train and upskill the aged care workforce to drive improvements to the safety and quality of care experienced by senior Australians.
This investment includes:
- $91.8 million, announced on 1 March 2021, to support the growth of the home care workforce by 18,000 new personal care workers.
- An additional 33,800 additional training places for personal care workers to attain a Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing) or a higher qualification.
- $135.6 million to provide additional financial support and bonuses for registered nurses.
- $49.4 million in increased funding directed towards training to improve aged care workers’ knowledge and practice in dementia and palliative care.
As for increases in aged care award wages
The level of award wages is currently in the hands of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) with the Federal Government making it clear that its decisions are independent. In its decision-making, the FWC has received Health Services Union submissions for increased wages for aged care workers covered by the Aged Care Award 2010.
An aged care role is not a stopgap measure
While the workforce investment looks significant, I remain concerned that taking a role in aged care is a means to an end - a stopgap measure to find other employment, obtain a visa or supplement household income.
A 2016 study found that one in 10 workers in the sector were actively looking for employment in other sectors. On the ground, I see much higher rates of turnover and it is often the reason why families engage me as they seek continuity of quality care for their loved one.
We need passionate people in the sector, and to meet the Government target of 37,800 more workers in the sector within the next two years, we need to be attracting younger people.
One other possible initiative is to have all qualified or in-training people in the health sector do a mandatory placement in aged care either in community and home care or residential aged care. This might encourage people to remain in the sector and aid the lack of current carers in the industry.
Impressive aged care workforce campaigns needed
The Government has run impressive campaigns attracting young people to the defence forces and the childcare sector continues to be a popular career choice for younger people. When spending, the Government needs to find a way to do the same for the aged care sector.
If you are seeking assistance on choosing quality care providers, please feel free to contact me, Danielle Robertson at DR Care Solutions, for an initial discussion. I am here to help set up the right care, support and assistance for you or your loved one, at the right time and in the right place.
 Royal Commission Into Aged Care Quality and Safety: Top Recommendations
 Department of Health: Australian Government Response to the Final Report of the Royal Commission Into Aged Care Quality and Safety
 "Budget 21 Q&A of Care: What It Means For You", The Weekend Australian, May 15-16,2021, p.39
 Department of Health: Workforce - Growing a Skilled and High Quality Workforce to Care for Senior Australians
 Aged Care Royal Commission: Attraction, Retention and Utilisation of the Aged Care Workforce