The Federal Government has announced the focus and membership of the aged care workforce taskforce, with the omission of a worker representative drawing the ire of unions and Labor.
When releasing the Tune Review in September, the government announced Professor John Pollaers would chair the multi-stakeholder taskforce that it committed $2 million to in the May 2017 Budget.
Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt told the COTA Next Phase of Aged Care Reform conference on Wednesday that the 12 members of the expert taskforce would develop a wide-ranging workforce strategy focused on supporting safe and quality aged care.
“Everything is on the table but there are only two things that matter, safety and quality,” Minister Wyatt said.
“The taskforce will explore short, medium and longer term options to boost supply, address demand and improve productivity for the aged care workforce.”
The taskforce’s terms of reference emphasise workforce planning, skills, supply and retention of workers, as well as cross-sectoral challenges and opportunities with related sectors such as health and disability.
The taskforce will also be expected to consider rural and remote workforce issues and and a workforce that can support the diverse needs of older Australians.
Minister Wyatt said the work of the taskforce would be “inclusive, with exhaustive national consultation” to all stakeholders including aged care workers and unions, however workers are not represented among the 12 members, which includes strong provider, academic and departmental representation.
Members well-known to the aged care sector include HammondCare CEO Dr Stephen Judd, Blue Cross chief executive Alan Lilly, Aged & Community Services Australia CEO Pat Sparrow, University of Western Australia pro vice chancellor and former Brightwater Group CEO, Dr Penny Flett, and Council on the Ageing chief executive Ian Yates.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, which represents nurses and assistants in nursing nationally, said the decision to exclude workforce representatives from the taskforce was “a major insult” to nurses and carer in the aged care sector.
“It’s inconceivable that the government has set-up a taskforce to investigate workforce issues and plan a future workforce strategy without nurses and carers,” said Annie Butler, the ANMF’s assistant federal secretary.
Labor called on the federal government to “do the right thing and invite relevant unions to join” the workforce taskforce immediately in a joint statement from Shadow Minister for Ageing Julie Collins and Shadow Assistant Minister for Ageing Helen Polley.
“The deliberate snub of unions that represent registered and enrolled nurses, personal care workers and other health professionals that provide care to older Australians completely undermines the legitimacy of the taskforce,” they said.
Australian Ageing Agenda asked Minister Wyatt why aged care workforce representatives were not included among the taskforce membership, and received a response from the department saying it would result in a “large unwieldy group” if all interested parties were included on the taskforce.
A spokeswoman for the Federal Department of Health said there were many and varied interests involved and “unions and workers will be significant contributors to building a shared strategy.”
“Careful thought has been given by the Minister and the taskforce chair to shaping taskforce membership, how the taskforce can maximise participation across all the interests involved, and practical ways to make sure that the detail needed can be gathered, analysed and effectively used,” she told AAA.
“Taskforce membership drawn from all those interests would result in a large unwieldy group.”
She said the taskforce was designed to draw together people who could bring high-level strategic thinking and experience, from inside and outside the sector, to the process of strategy development.
The taskforce will oversee and sponsor a combination of working summits, public submission processes, technical and specialist groups to inform its work.
Among measures to include workers, all unions with coverage of aged care are being invited to be part of a specific purpose advisory group to the taskforce, the departmental spokeswoman said.
The taskforce is scheduled to report to Minister Wyatt by 30 June 2018.
- Chair Professor John Pollaers
- Dr Michele Bruniges, secretary, Federal Department of Education and Training
- Dr Penny Flett, pro vice chancellor, University of Western Australia
- Dr Stephen Judd, CEO, HammondCare
- Professor Linda Kristjanson, vice-chancellor, Swinburne University
- Alan Lilly, chief executive, Blue Cross
- Professor Andrew Robinson, co-director of Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre, Tasmania, and director Dementia Training Australia
- Catherine Rule, acting deputy secretary, Federal Department of Health
- Tim Shackleton, CEO, Rural Health West
- Pat Sparrow, CEO, Aged & Community Services Australia
- Dr Adrian Turner, CEO, Data61, CSIRO
- Ian Yates, chief executive, Council on the Ageing
Related coverage: Senate report will inform taskforce on aged care workforce: Wyatt
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