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Shrinking home care workforce raises concerns: report

Despite continued growth in government-funded home care and home support, the sector’s full-time equivalent direct care workforce has shrunk by 19 per cent since 2012, official figures show.

The latest aged care workforce census found the community care workforce overall has reduced by 13 per cent in the last four years.

This reduction in the direct care workforce, combined with the likely increase in future demand for care at home, “may cause concern,” the report’s authors said.

In 2012, 6.7 per cent of community care workers were employed on permanent a full-time contract, which has dropped to 5.7 per cent in 2016.

The report’s authors, who are researchers at the National Institute of Labour Studies at Flinders University, said the findings point to an increase in the proportion of workers employed for fewer hours.

Interviews with community aged care staff also identified concerns over the future sustainability of their organisations and the impact on their own employment.

Casualisation halved

In a positive finding, the report identified a significant shift away from the use of casual contracts in the community aged care sector, dropping from 27 per cent in 2012 to 14 per cent in 2016.

While casual employment has reduced, permanent part-time employment jumped 13 per cent, to 75 per cent of the workforce.

The decline in casual arrangements in the sector suggests fears of an increase in casualisation as a result of consumer-directed care policy have so far not materialised.

The work schedules of the direct care workforce have also remained largely unchanged, with the majority of workers employed on regular daytime shifts. However, the results show a small increase in shift changes at short notice.

Around 14 per cent of community care workers reported an irregular work schedule.

Highlighting underemployment in the sector, 40 per cent of home care and home support staff said they would prefer to work more hours and 16 per cent held multiple jobs, according to the report, which is commissioned by the Department of Health.

Paid travel time

Significantly, the report found that 70 per cent of all outlets paid for their staff’s travel time and 48 per cent paid a petrol/depreciation allowance for work-related transport costs.

This was the first time that the report collected data on the allowances paid to home care and home support workers, such as travel time between care appointments, which is currently not included in the modern award for the sector.

Community care workers more satisfied

Compared to residential workers, community aged care workers reported greater job satisfaction and less stress and pressure than their residential care counterparts.

Increased specialisation

While the sector’s Aged Care Roadmap proposes moving to a single aged care system where the silos between home and residential care dissolve, the report showed providers are becoming increasingly specialised within their sectors.

For example, the share of home care and home support outlets also providing residential aged care services has fallen from 20 per cent to 13 per cent in 2016.

However, the impact of the February 2017 reforms in home care where residential aged care providers can opt in to provide home care is yet to be seen.

RELATED COVERAGE: Workforce survey paints positive picture

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3 Responses to Shrinking home care workforce raises concerns: report

  1. David April 13, 2017 at 3:36 pm #

    Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award 2010

    20.5 Travelling, transport and fares
    (a) Where an employee is required and authorised by their employer to use their motor vehicle in the course of their duties, the employee is entitled to be reimbursed at the rate of $0.78 per kilometre.

  2. Drew Dwyer April 21, 2017 at 2:08 pm #

    We need to promote the positives that come with being a paid care worker

    Of course the first consideration is the pay and conditions should be improved, however the joy we receive in care work is reward for efforts in giving care.

    We need to recruit the right people that fit the profile of a professional care worker and team member

  3. Marie Morgan (@Coopuffin) April 21, 2017 at 3:07 pm #

    Interesting that this article sheds a completely different light from the survey conducted by Flinders University which you recently published – perhaps I am just misinterpreting the story.

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