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.
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.
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.
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