With the Federal Government confirming to Australian Ageing Agenda that a new aged care workforce strategy is now in the early stages of development, workforce is shaping up to a be a key area of action in 2015.
But according to Debra King, co-author of the Aged Care Workforce Census and Survey, community aged care is the sleeper issue in the industry’s conversation on workforce.
While there are challenges in the residential care sector, these issues have been identified and debated over 20 years and are, by and large, being addressed, said Dr King, who is Dean of the School of Social and Policy Studies at Flinders University.
“There are problems in residential care but they are being looked at,” Dr King told AAA. “I don’t think the same level of thought has gone into the community care workforce for the changes that are going to happen in this sector.”
Dr King said there is an urgent need to focus attention on community care and, in particular, on issues that are largely unaddressed such as:
- consistent working hours for community care employees
- staff out-of-pocket expenses
- training and preparing for the increasing complex needs of home care clients.
She said community care is changing rapidly and likely to grow at a much faster rate than the residential care sector, which created a level of urgency to start resolving these problems now.
“That for me is the big issue, how do you develop an aged care workforce strategy that encourages the development of skills and capacity across both the residential and community aged care sector.”
Dr King said advocacy of community care issues had not been as organised or powerful as the residential sector and so had not received the same level of attention.
Consumer directed care would also raise some important issues for the community care workforce.
“There are real concerns around what the whole CDC approach will do for the quality of work, and as a result, what impact it will have on the quality of care.”
Dr King said although the Australian approach is somewhat different, the experience of the UK has shown that a shift to individualised funding and budget holding can negatively impact on employees.
“What happens in that system is that people try to get the most hours for their money and so they try and pay people less. That has created significant problems for workers in England.”
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