The peak body representing major private residential aged care providers has called for the mandatory registration of personal care workers in aged care, saying there is a “compelling case” for a national system in Australia.
The Aged Care Guild’s position, contained in its submission to the senate’s inquiry into the aged care workforce, is the first time an aged care peak body has argued in favour of mandatory registration.
The guild represents nine of the largest private residential providers, which make up 18 per cent of the sector between them.
While state governments agreed to a National Code of Conduct for Health Care Workers in April 2015, which would cover personal care workers, the guild argued that “this would not meet the requirements and full intent of a national registration process.”
The national code is currently in operation in three states – South Australia, NSW and Queensland – but has not yet been implemented in other jurisdictions until state governments pass enabling legislation. AAA reported on the national health workers code in 2014 – read that report here.
The guild asked the senate inquiry to consider registration for personal care workers “which should become compulsory and administered by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, in the same way that tertiary qualified nurses, doctors and allied health professionals are.”
Cameron O’Reilly, the guild’s CEO, told Australian Ageing Agenda that the inquiry had a broad remit and there was merit in it examining specific measures such as registration.
The sector was facing a huge numerical challenge in terms of the numbers of workers required, compounded by the need to maintain quality and confidence in services and make aged care a more professional, attractive place to work, he said.
“We’re facing an historic challenge in overall growth in an environment where policy is emphasising the importance of a more consumer-centric organisation, where the workforce is almost part of the consumer experience,” Mr O’Reilly said.
A registration system would help employers to maintain quality, and it aligned with the guild’s emphasis on ensuring the quality of the training sector and of qualifications, he said.
“[Registration] can’t be looked at in isolation but it’s a good specific thing for this inquiry to give a full airing to,” he said, including testing some of the assumptions around introducing mandatory reporting, such as it being a deterrent to new entrants.
Aged care provider Jewish Care Victoria has also backed the introduction of mandatory registration for PCWs.
It told the inquiry that the growth in demand for aged care coupled with the rollout of CDC highlighted the need for registration of direct care workers which would bring with it individual responsibility for continuing professional development.
There was currently no professional body that a direct care worker could be reported to if their performance was deemed unsafe and at risk to the people they cared for, Jewish Care Victoria said in its submission.
“Providers can utilise performance and disciplinary procedures in such instances but the individual is still able to obtain work with another employer,” it said.
Furthermore, as a consumer directed market allowed individuals to directly contract themselves as individual providers of care, with no affiliation to an aged care provider, there was “uncertainty in how these workers are to be monitored or the safety of clients maintained,” said Jewish Care Victoria.
The majority of aged care providers and peak bodies have traditionally been opposed to mandatory registration of PCWs, arguing that the cost of registration and ongoing requirements such as continuing professional development would act as a disincentive to attracting workers.
Aged care provider Resthaven restated its opposition to regulation of care workers, saying any barrier for entry should be carefully considered. “We do not favour extending the role of AHPRA to unregulated workers,” it said in its submission to the inquiry.
More AAA coverage on the senate workforce inquiry:
- Senate workforce probe hears quality of RTOs should be priority
- We’re hiring! Aged care needs ‘positive image’ campaign to attract workers
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