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.
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.
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