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We’re hiring! Aged care needs ‘positive image’ campaign to attract workers

Aged care providers and peak bodies have called for a national positive image campaign to promote the industry’s career opportunities to possible workers ranging from school students to medical and health professionals.

The initiative was one of many measures proposed in submissions to the senate’s current inquiry into the aged care workforce.

Catholic Health Australia proposed “periodic public relations campaigns” to improve the image of aged care as a career choice, which would be supplemented by payment of financial incentives to employees who chose a career in aged care.

Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) also called for measures to raise the image of working in the aged care sector.

The peak body told the inquiry that “an adverse view of aged care was not helped by negative comments about the industry from the government, and amplified by media.”

Such comments were upsetting to the current workforce and discouraged new entrants, said LASA.

The Presbyterian Aged Care Network also noted that aged care has “not had a particularly positive image for potential employees when considering a career.”

Cuts to workforce fund criticised

Several providers sharply criticised the Federal Government’s recent changes to the aged care sector’s workforce fund, which provided scholarships and training incentives for aged care staff.

The sector’s fund was first cut by 15 per cent in last year’s budget in May, and then merged in with the broader health sector fund in the budget update in December.

Victorian ethno-specific provider DutchCare said the cuts meant it would not be able to advance the qualifications or careers of its employees. “These workers are not in a position to finance their studies independently and neither is DutchCare. This will lead to a static, less qualified workforce,” it said.

Major Western Australian provider Brightwater said the workforce challenges were not helped by the removal of financial incentives to attract staff.

“The cuts to aged care workforce funds mean that there is no additional funding that organisations can access to train up staff with the specific skills needed…. This was well utilised at Brightwater. The cuts take away any competitive advantage aged care had over disability and other healthcare organisations to attract staff,” it said.

LASA said it strongly opposed the cuts, which jeopardised innovation and “may put quality at risk.”

Immigration ‘not a panacea’

Several groups argued that while workers recruited from overseas would likely play an important part in addressing workforce shortages, immigration alone was not a solution.

Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) said it was important that immigration “not be regarded as a panacea” as increasing the proportion of recent immigrants in aged care would also require providing workers, managers and care recipients with “the tools to support intercultural communication and working.”

Major provider Australian Unity said it was concerned about the “potential complacency of relying on immigration from developing nations in the region” to meet workforce demand in Australian aged care.

“Our concern is centred on competition from other developed countries, such as Japan and the United States. Both these countries have far bigger populations, have similar or worse demographic projections in terms of an ageing population, and may be considered more attractive and/or lucrative options for potential workers,” Australian Unity said.

The senate inquiry is due to report by 30 June.

READ NEXT: Senate workforce probe hears quality of RTOs should be priority

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12 Responses to We’re hiring! Aged care needs ‘positive image’ campaign to attract workers

  1. Julie Hyne March 11, 2016 at 4:01 pm #

    Research has proven that projecting a positive and professional image can significantly impact the ability to grow your business. How your staff look and feel speaks volumes about your corporate values and defining culture. The way your company and staff present can directly influence how potential clients, shareholders and future quality employees perceive you and whether you are attractive to them or not.
    Now more than ever, projecting an image that is attractive, communicates excellence, integrity and a positive and professional identity is what is needed.
    Thought and expertise is now a necessity in selecting the right look for your staff and image.

  2. Melisa March 11, 2016 at 5:03 pm #

    Having worked in aged care when I was in my 20’s many people would question why I worked in the industry, believing I was too young. I have to say it was extremely rewarding, which is something I can’t seem to get through to current secondary school students. I am only months away from completing a Bachelor or Dementia Care course and will eventually return to the aged care industry in some compacity. I currently also work as a Careers Advisor at a secondary school; some students say they are scared of elderly people especially people with dementia, others would prefer caring for younger people. There needs to be empathise on the various positions within the aged care sector and the possible pathways available (there are many). Many students do not look at the future job prospects either. Specialising in the aged care industry will always guarantee excellent future possibilities. Hence the reason people from overseas are keen to work in the industry

  3. Rita March 11, 2016 at 10:49 pm #

    I am a lifestyle worker in aged care and I do find working in aged care very rewarding. I have just started studying the Bachelor of Dementia Care at the University of Tasmania and my motivation for doing so is mostly from a personal interest in providing better long term care for people with dementia. I do not have a back ground in nursing.

    While I find working with and caring for elders in long term care rewarding, I have struggled with other issues in aged care. I have felt at times ridiculed, devalued and bullied out of the workplace and I don’t think it is an uncommon occurrence. There is a high rate of turnover of staff, around 25% approximately per year in residential age care facilities.

    I agree that aged care needs a positive image but it also needs to question leadership as well.

  4. Drew Dwyer March 11, 2016 at 11:40 pm #

    The research will clearly inform you that those who work in aged care do so because they want to. The problem is not the image of aged care. The reality is its the workforce and the conditions. If we can manage an emotionally intelligent transparent and honest conversation on that issue we will go a long way in attracting the right people for the job fit.

    Its time for aged care to grow up and accept that the workforce needs leadership at all levels and total support in the frontline of care

  5. Dave March 13, 2016 at 4:55 pm #

    Those calling for a positive spin campaign should ask themselves why we need one in the first place.

    It’s disingenuous of LASA to blame government and media for aged care’s poor status. Providers are responsible for the substandard care, chronic under-staffing, overbearing workloads and low wages that contribute to our negative image.

    How telling, that instead of addressing these core issues to genuinely improve care and conditions, our leaders prefer to hide them under some glossy spin. Style over substance yet again; they just cant help themselves.

    There’s a reason we’re having trouble attracting good people to the sector…and there’s a reason why we keep relying on the poor, unsuspecting immigrant worker to do the work that wiser locals don’t want to do.

  6. Samantha Bowen March 14, 2016 at 2:38 pm #

    An image update does need to occur. There are major barriers into young people considering aged care careers, and also barriers in how organisations are retaining these individuals. An image update, but also cultural change needs to happen if we are to allow our younger generations to see the immense rewards these careers provide.
    With Generation Y making up 42% of the workforce in 2025, we really need to be implementing and trying new initiatives right now, if we are to improve the age demographics of our workplaces and improve it’s image.

  7. Drew Dwyer March 15, 2016 at 8:06 pm #

    Younger generations will need leadership and mentoring to fully understand the values we share in the care work environments. We need to look at transitioning and or bringing more older workers to the sector to be focused in leadership and mentoring the younger workforce if this image campaign goes ahead.

    Older workers will have significant contribution to make to the new workforces in care services. We need to focus on attracting the right fit for the job as it really is about having the passion and the want to do the work.

    As I sated earlier there is nothing wrong with the IMAGE of aged care work. There is much to do in the workforce conditions and the leadership we offer.

  8. Nicole D March 16, 2016 at 3:29 pm #

    Aged Care needs good leadership for all levels of staff. Board members need to play an active role in knowing and understanding about how the changes are impacting on staff morale and in retaining staff. I have been managing staff in various industries over the past 30 years and have never been in a situation where middle staff are not supported.
    I agree more needs to be done in mentoring younger workers, however retaining already trained staff should be a priority, as currently aged care staff are highly undervalued.

  9. Karen March 16, 2016 at 5:25 pm #

    The federal budget cuts are sadly being demonstrated in facilities by management ‘reassessing’ skill mixes on shifts and subsequently having the RN at a desk doing paperwork while EENs and PCAs do medications and attend to wounds and other complex care needs. As a result many hospitals are seeing an increase in admissions of the elderly who would have previously been managed in the RACF by a competent RN. Aged care is the most rewarding area of nursing I have ever had the privilege of working in but sadly, it is getting more difficult to find work as an RN that wants to remain ‘hands on’ and be paid the equivalent of peers working in the acute sector.

  10. Jillian Sethi March 16, 2016 at 8:02 pm #

    Having worked many years in Aged Care my opinion is simply .. yes.. much better pay rates, in recognition of value and complex skills required to deliver at a high standard .. AND .. much improved ratios for staff to residents so these desired high standards can be consistently achieved without burning out wonderful caring people.

  11. Steven March 18, 2016 at 5:43 pm #

    I have been working many years in the aged care industry during this time I have witnessed many changes to care issues for those who we care for.
    Some changes have been good, others have been bad, due to budget cuts, less staff at all levels, increased workloads, lack of proper training etc. WHY!! bad decisions made by the government and aged care providers.

    In my opinion the aged care industry has become complacent due to funding restrictions and bad management at all levels in the aged care industry’

    I believe what is needed is looking at achieving a career pathway for the people who work in the industry, giving the workers job satisfaction and a high level of professionalism in their job role bringing the highest level of care to the consumers in this industry.

  12. Anonymous March 25, 2016 at 1:40 pm #

    I agree all as mentioned above. Working in aged care since 1976, I find the workload is much more due to too much documentation than hospital, and lower pay than hospital. It is less incentive to attract new under-graduate RN to join in the force.

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