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Sector responds to revamped course for care workers

After years of debate, the certificate III in aged care has been replaced with a common qualification across aged care and disability, while mandated work placements have been put in place. But is it enough to address longstanding sector concerns? 

A training package review conducted by the Community Services and Health Industry Skills Council (CS&HISC) saw the entry level qualifications for aged care change.

At the Certificate III level, a new qualification, Certificate III in Individual Support, replaced the Certificate III in Aged Care, Certificate III in Home and Community Care and Certificate III in Disability.

Under this qualification, a student completes a common, general core of subjects, and can then choose to specialise in up to two areas: ageing, home and community or disability.

CS&HISC decided to bring together the qualifications in recognition of the common skill sets that exist between the aged care and disability sectors and to enable greater flexibility for workers to move between the two sectors.

As part of the same review, the Certificate IV in Home and Community Care and Certificate IV in Aged Care have also been merged to form the Certificate IV in Ageing Support.

Under both certificates, which were officially endorsed in August, it is now mandatory that students meet a minimum 120-hour workplace requirement. As part of this, many competencies must now be assessed either within the workplace or within a simulated workplace.

Flexible workers and a common skill-set

Jodie Davis

Jodie Davis

Jodie Davis, federal education officer for the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, was a member of the industry reference group who advised CS&HISC on the new packages. She says the new qualifications still allow specialisation while addressing commonalities that exist within the sectors.

“Core competencies such as workplace health and safety, communication, anatomy and physiology, inflection control are common to the needs of each of those sectors and the people working within them,” she says.

Davis says the ability to walk away from the qualification with a dual-specialisation will make students more employable, especially as more providers are moving into some or all of the sectors.

Echoing this, Arlene Quinn, people development manager at Baptistcare WA, says that the common core subjects offered by the certificate III will be a useful advantage for providers like Baptistcare who offer residential aged care, community care and disability services.

In particular, she sees benefits for workers with a dual-specialisation in both community care and disability services due to the commonalities in approach.

Wendy Cohen

Wendy Cohen

Wendy Cohen, executive officer of National Disability Practitioners, the professional association of the disability peak National Disability Services, says that the changes to the certificate III address the bigger picture regarding workforce planning as they offer an opportunity to galvanise the sectors, while still acknowledging the different needs of each.

“We’re looking at more a shared responsibility to fill the needs of these sectors,” says Cohen, “particularly if you wanted to relate it to rural and remote areas, where there might be less work in each field, but together these transferrable skills, experience and knowledge mean they can actually fill a couple of different roles.”

Cohen says that the choice offered by the certificate will invariably increase enrolments and the placement will allow students to have a taste of what the work involves, allowing them to choose the field that best suits them.

Work hours welcome, practical issues

Davis says that ensuring workplace requirements was an integral aim of the industry reference group and she hopes it will lead to more consistent levels of training across RTOs, and address long-standing industry concerns regarding varying levels of clinical experience.

“It’s not as open to interpretation as it was before,” she says. “We’ve drilled down on each element to ensure that what needs to be performed on real people and practiced is.”

However, the increased mandated work requirements could prove problematic for aged care providers.

Arlene Quinn

Arlene Quinn

Baptistcare’s Quinn says it is unlikely that community and disability organisations will be able to meet the overall 120-hour work requirements of the new qualifications, due to the person-centred nature of the way they operate.

She also says lower level CDC packages may not give students a broad enough experience to reach competency.

“Going into a Home Care Package Level 1 or 2 – what will a student actually get from that experience, other than how to communicate or how to be person-centred?” she asks.

“However, their program will require them to have certain tasks ticked off… they’ll still need to know how to shower somebody, they’ll still need to know how to administer medications, so some of the logistics around how this will work will be interesting.”

Quinn believes that due to these practical issues, it will fall to residential aged care providers to provide the bulk of the core training. This may mean that students will preference aged care as that’s where their initial job training has occurred, and it may also place strain on aged care providers to meet demand.

“We haven’t offered work placements in our home and community services for over a year in some areas. Disability potentially has the same issue. So most RTOs are going to want to work the 120 hours around a residential aged care facility or a group home facility for disability,” she says.

“We will be in the same situation as so many healthcare systems are, where they have so many students vying for clinical placements.”

Disadvantages aside, the positives of the new qualification are that graduates will have had 120 hours of training which is more than they currently do, says Quinn. “So it’s swings and roundabouts as to how that will play out in the longer term,” she says.

An extended version of this report appears in the Nov-Dec 2015 issue of AAA magazine.

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13 Responses to Sector responds to revamped course for care workers

  1. Ted Wards January 15, 2016 at 3:31 pm #

    I hope this will improve the quality of workers that go into people’s homes but I doubt it. The quality of the work is so bad in some organisations that people on packages are looking to become their own case manager and broker out to private companies. Its the way of the future. Will the practice of pushing incompetent students through that don’t speak English so the RTO gets their funding be addressed this time? I know of cases where the trainer has been forced to do the workbook and pass the student and they have no idea of what they are doing. Something needs to change. I think we need to get aged care training back into TAFE. RTO’s are just businesses and they don’t care about the quality of student they mark as Competent!

  2. Frances Hessing January 16, 2016 at 12:02 am #

    This is so true,the industry is appalling, government think anyone can do it so make it part of visas, poor English spoken, different cultures, people that don’t really want to be there, whether clients home or facility.
    It needs to be a career, hands on training over several years with goals to reach and exams to pass, as with EN and RN an entrance exam, it’s often said well if you want to so called move up in your career to do either of these courses but why as with other nursing specialist trainings ie midwifery isn’t aged care a specialised section of nursing it’s very challenging and diverse and speaking from years in this profession extremely hard work mentally and physically with many avenues to gain further experience and qualifications which we are not recognized for and it is also poorly paid, so why would young people want to make it a career, go back to basics train in house and set goals for recognition.

  3. Christine Robey January 16, 2016 at 8:03 am #

    True. Showering and mobilising people is so important yet I have seen arms pulled during attempts to move someone, I have heard the most inappropriate remarks from some workers who use slang terms for body parts, I have witnessed dangerous behaviour. Because staff are so pushed for time I have seen many shortcuts taken with procedures. It has got to stop.
    Age Care will never attract good staff until the profile is raised. Until carer to client ratios give care workers the proper time they need. At the moment it is too rushed. Age Care homes are all gold taps and fancy furniture where they should be concentrating on staffing and resources.

    – just a few of my observations.

    Christine Robey
    Age Care Nurse.

  4. Sue January 18, 2016 at 12:20 pm #

    As far as I know TAFE is also a RTO and is also just a business looking to make money from government funding. The issue is surely more to do with the better regulation of all RTOs including TAFE.

  5. Rose January 18, 2016 at 4:31 pm #

    I just wondered if the issue of split work placement hours across three specialities have been raised? We have always asked aged care students to complete a minimum of 120 hours of placement. If students decide to specialise in Disability and Aged Care we have the potential now for 60 hours in disability and 60 hours in aged care? Is this correct. If so will an aged care facility want a student for 1.5 weeks? Will a disability provider want a student for 1.5 weeks? Please comment. Currently our Certificate IV in Disability students complete a minimum of 150 hours of placement.

  6. Paul January 28, 2016 at 4:52 pm #

    One issue is : “You pay peanuts you get monkeys” …. When are we going to recognise that Aged carers are professional nurses and pay them what they deserve. the second issue is training, it is not about the RTO or TAFE doing the training and or who does it better, its about the content and the time that is spent in teaching these students. Like nursing, aged care should be a modified degree with a on the job assessment component that actually means something and not just paperwork that meets the requirements. I am an aged care trainer , working in a facility and I see staff that we employ that have certificates, but no idea on how to do what is required, we need more trainers on the job and more accountability in the training results. The comment that was made that a trainer filled in the paperwork for a student is what is bringing the system and credibility down, we don’t need trainers that do that. Combining Aged Care III and Disability III is long overdue …

  7. Dave January 28, 2016 at 7:26 pm #

    This looks familiar. After years of debate the industry reference group comes up with a system that, in practice, just wont work.

    What was their plan for handling all those 120 hour placements ? We’ll probably see a ramp-up of the current situation, where the trainer gives students a cursory onsite intro and then dumps them on the facility, (and facility staff, desperate for any assistance, let unsupervised and unskilled students loose on unsuspecting residents).

    Or perhaps they can just slip through another loophole. Did anyone notice that competencies can be assessed “within a simulated workplace”. This is great news for RTOs…it’s much easier to pass your practical when the mannequin can’t tell you how much you’re hurting them.

    Why are our experts so disconnected?

    Just read the all comments from our colleagues every time another half-baked solution is announced. Everyone gets it. Everyone except those charged with finding the solution.

  8. margaret January 29, 2016 at 3:14 pm #

    There should be an english test prior to commencement-same as uni to make sure the student has an adequate literacy level to complete their own written work. Facilities shoudnt be taking on students for practicums if they do not have adequate supervision in place. In the first year post completion the worker should still have weekly supervision as they increase their skills. There should be yearly increments in pay according to competencies and minimum hours worked.
    Having worked in aged care for 20 years in the community sector I have seen the workforce change from committed, well trained people(mostly middle aged women) who saw it as a career to a transient workforce.
    The core competencies and specialisation is a good concept but needs to be backed with good teaching and supervision. RN’s used to be trained “on the job” and it worked.

  9. rachel March 22, 2016 at 6:24 pm #

    I am just about to finish my Certificate Three in Aged Care. I can’t wait to start my 120 hours of work placement. I had to find that prior to commencing the course and have a number of workbooks and tasks that needs completing while I am in work placement…We need kind and compassionate and patient people that have integrity and honesty.

  10. Anne June 5, 2017 at 8:16 pm #

    English test needed for carers in age care

  11. Rosemarie June 7, 2017 at 1:45 pm #

    I agree that the poor profile of Care Workers in Aged Care – especially community home care – does not do much to encourage young or mature workers to take it up as a career. Yes it definitely requires proper training as rigorous as nursing. Perhaps Australia should adopt the Dutch Burtzorg model which is built around community nursing. In addition, the sector is becoming more casualised possibly as a result of Consumer Directed Care philosophy that results in the need for more workforce flexibility. This is no good for raising the profile of community care workers.
    Yes I do know of RTOs who complete the assessments to push students through.

  12. Jo Le Mura November 3, 2017 at 7:18 pm #

    Dignity, rights and support of clients to live as self-determining and to their fullest potential should be central to both sectors. Workers either have the right personality and attributes or they don’t. Yes, there are practical skills and a degree of specific knowledge required, but please don’t throw out the baby with the bath water by “over-medicalising” or “professionalising” their roles.

    If people do the maths, and then ask themselves “who will pay for all of this” (“the workers on their $23 per hour – or less)- and the increased wages they would be entitled to after degree training. Most people in aged care facilities already have to sell their homes to pay for their care. With current references to the profits made by some organisations, wouldn’t it be just as appropriate for training to be in-house? I would rather do relevant face-to-face training in a team than the many of the money-making courses offered by the TAFES. Workers in both sectors become accustomed to negative generalisations and criticisms, but truth is, there are so many fantastic workers out there who do the work because they love it.

  13. Jo Le Mura November 3, 2017 at 7:19 pm #

    Ps, Sorry, I left out “supported to live as independently and to their fullest potential as possible”

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