The Federal Government has begun an audit of government-funded aged care workforce programs with the aim of developing an aged care workforce development strategy, Australian Ageing Agenda can confirm.
Community services and healthcare consulting firm Health Outcomes International is undertaking the audit, which began in October 2014 and is expected to be completed by mid-2015.
The Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield told AAA the analysis would “identify any duplication and gaps across activities, synergies and areas of overlap between the aged care and disability workforces.”
An Aged Care Sector Committee Workforce Advisory Group has been established to provide advice on the project.
All workforce expenditure over the last three years will be reviewed with the aim of developing a new comprehensive government workforce strategy.
Senator Fifield said:
“It is anticipated that the stocktake will provide an evidence-based foundation for developing an aged care workforce development strategy which can help inform future funding priorities.”
Senator Fifield flagged the government’s intention to conduct an audit of aged care workforce funding to develop a more coordinated approach during an interview with AAA (published in our July-August 2014 edition).
The audit emerged from a workforce roundtable held in February 2014 and received wide support from aged care stakeholders at the meeting.
Compared to other OECD countries, Australia has traditionally pursued a more limited range of measures to respond to Australia’s aged care workforce challenges.
The Productivity Commission recommended a comprehensive aged care workforce strategy should be developed in its 2011 inquiry report.
The PC said a national strategy should include paying fair and competitive wages; ensuring the pricing of services takes into account appropriate staffing levels, skills mix and remuneration; improving access to education and training; developing well-articulated career paths and better management; reducing regulatory burden and extending scopes of practice.
Peak body outlines its priorities
Ahead of the new workforce discussions with government, Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) will this month release a workforce position paper with a set of recommendations for action.
The position paper is the culmination of several months of research and consultation among ACSA members to come up with a set of priorities and recommendations to inform the government’s strategy.
A draft of the position paper, seen by AAA, calls for a 10-year overarching workforce strategy which emphasises areas such as technology support, mandatory units of competency in training and targeted funding for volunteers.
Significantly, ACSA will recommend that the government provides a specific budget allocation from the forward estimates for sector-wide leadership development.
“For me, the big area that will assist in workforce is leadership,” said ACSA CEO Adjunct Professor John Kelly.
“If you invest in leadership development across the sector, and I’m talking serious money – three figures in the millions over the forward estimates, that in itself leads to different ways that current staff are looked after and the retention of those workers.”
ACSA’s paper recommends government continue to fund joint initiatives to develop leadership capabilities through the Aged Care Leadership Development Project (a project led by ACSA and LASA in partnership with CS&HISC), as well as prioritising managing a culturally diverse workforce. This will also include supporting staff from culturally diverse backgrounds to move into leadership roles, the paper says.
Another area highlighted by ACSA is technology. Adjunct Professor Kelly said:
“We have to use robotics and technology in clinical care to decrease – not in a huge way but possibly by 5 per cent – the amount of people we need by actually getting technology to do things.”
Investing in home care technologies and the ICT skills of current and future staff should also be a priority, said the ACSA paper.
In the future, Adjunct Professor Kelly said the sector would also need to capture better data on the specific areas of workforce shortage in order to introduce targeted incentives in difficult-to-staff areas. He said the mining industry and acute care in remote and regional Australia have been effective at offering staff incentives and aged care needs to play catch up.