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Government confirms it will support workforce strategy


The Minister for Aged Care Sussan Ley has confirmed that the government will assist the industry in the development of an aged care workforce strategy.

Earlier this month, the Opposition accused the Federal Government of outsourcing its leadership role on workforce and abandoning its commitment to develop an aged care workforce strategy.

Labor’s comments came after Minister for Rural Health Fiona Nash told a Senate estimates hearing that while the government was committed to working with the aged care industry, providers were “ultimately responsible for workforce.”

Speaking at the Leading Aged Services Australia Tri-State conference on Sunday, Ms Ley acknowledged that the workforce was an important issue for the sector, and said she wanted to take the opportunity to confirm that government would assist with the development of a workforce strategy, “as we said we would.”

Minister for Aged Care Sussan Ley

Minister for Aged Care Sussan Ley

However, Ms Ley said she wanted to be “clear” that the primary responsibility for workforce still rests with providers, noting that this was the rationale behind returning Labor’s $1.2 billion workforce supplement to industry in the 2014 Budget.

“Aged care providers are in the best place to determine workforce needs and manage their workforce,” she said.

Ms Ley said the Department of Health was presently working through the details of how the strategy would work and more information will be available to the sector soon.

Residential care the next area of reform

Ms Ley said she was pleased to have introduced the legislation that will see home care packages allocated to consumers from February 2017 into parliament this month. She said this reform will reduce red tape for businesses and improve consumer choice and control.

Building on this and the planned consolidation of the home care system in 2018, Ms Ley said residential aged care needs to be the next area of reform.

“It’s my view that service providers should be able to make business decisions about where to build a residential care service and then allow them to attract customers through price and service,” she told the Albury audience.

On the topic of residential care, Ms Ley reiterated that the $150 million overspend in the ACFI was not explained by frailty growth, as has been argued by the industry’s  peak bodies. Aged care expenditure must remain within its allocated but growing budget, she said.

“I do want to work with industry to ensure certainty in residential aged care funding,” she said.

Support for rural and remote providers

Ms Ley acknowledged the additional financial challenges faced by rural and remote providers as highlighted by the Aged Care Financing Authority’s report released last week.

She said the report showed the government’s viability supplement was well targeted, and noted that one third of providers had financial results equal to or better than metropolitan services.

However, she said there was “no doubt” that government needed to consider how best to support rural and remote providers – whose models of local care she called “unsurpassed” – to continue to be viable.

Quality beyond compliance

The minister noted quality as another priority area for government, and said that the current accreditation system was only one part of the quality picture.

“I want Australia’s aged care system to have an approach to quality that understands and anticipates what’s important to the individual,” said Ms Ley.

“A quality facility and service should be one that exceeds the consumer’s expectations, not one that is simply safe and compliant – that should be a given.”

Ms Ley repeated previous statements that she would like the My Aged Care gateway to progressively resemble travel review website TripAdvisor in order to help assist consumers in their decision-making.

(Photo: Peak Multimedia)

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2 Responses to Government confirms it will support workforce strategy

  1. Frances Hessing February 25, 2016 at 6:14 pm #

    Better trained and better paid staff will produce a better understanding of caring of the elderly, as it is now homes are filled with carers that see it as just a job and it’s not it needs a nationwide training structure which would then help employers know the skills employees have and then better serve the industry.

  2. Alex Hagan February 26, 2016 at 1:48 pm #

    Fascinating to compare and contrast these comments with the announcement from Singapore this week that they are establishing a cross-agency, coordinated US$2.14 billion plan on the ageing demographic, citing Ageing as the “single most important demographic shift” affecting Singapore’s future. Australia’s Intergenerational Report says more or less the same about Australia.

    The Ageing population, and the Aged Care sector, are critical determinants of Australia’s economic and cultural position in years to come. The time to start addressing the challenges has already passed. Yes, the primary responsibility for the workforce will always belong to employers – but there are structural workforce shortages in the Aged Care sector – not just in remote and regional areas, and not just in Australia, but globally. Health and care professions are amongst the few that are both:
    a) forecast to grow substantially in the next 5 years, according to the Department of Employment, and
    b) least likely to be complemented / partly automated through technology in the next 10-20 years, according to the recent and influential “Future of Employment” report by Frey and Osborne at the University of Oxford.

    Looking forward to hearing the Government’s (or the opposition’s, for that matter) plans in this space, and what constitutes “assistance”. Their policies should really be election issues, and determinants of who is in government by the end of this year.

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