Aged care provider peak bodies say they are pleased with the extension of the government’s initiative allowing aged care staff on student visas to continue working increased hours.
The initiative announced in March last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic allows international student visa holders working in aged care on a visa to work more than 40 hours a fortnight.
The extension announced this week applies to all student visa holders working in aged care, regardless of when they commenced work.
Student visa holders who commenced working in aged care after 8 September 2020 were previously excluded from these conditions.
Aged and Community Services Australia CEO Patricia Sparrow ACSA welcomed for extension, which ACSA had advocated for.
“The additional hours able to be worked by student visa holders will have a big impact on services for older Australians, allowing these workers to provide continuity of quality care to residents,“ Ms Sparrow told Australian Ageing Agenda.
“Many of our members aged care facilities, particularly in regional, rural and remote communities are facing immense pressure in securing and retaining a sustainable workforce. Sensible initiatives such as this one will assist to provide the ongoing quality of care.”
Tim Hicks, general manager policy and advocacy of fellow aged care provider peak body Leading Age Services Australia, also welcomed the extension after months of discussions with the Federal Government.
“[It] will provide much needed relief from the workforce pressures facing providers across Australia but particularly in COVID-19 hotspots,” Mr Hicks told AAA.
“Workforce will continue to be a challenge for the aged care sector and we need to be pursuing every option that is available,” Mr Hicks said.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt said the government understood the increasing workforce pressures in aged care.
“Many aged care workers, nurses and other staff have been working at a higher intensity during the pandemic. All Australians are thankful for their efforts and the Australian Government is working to ease that pressure,” Mr Hunt said in a statement.
Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Richard Colbeck said the initiative was an important mechanism for providers.
“This extension will help reinforce staff rosters, ensuring providers will have continued access to skilled and compassionate workers and ultimately ensure the health and wellbeing of our loved ones in care is a priority,” Mr Colbeck said.
Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alex Hawke said the extension allows student visa holders to work longer hours without impacting their visa status.
“We want student visa holders to have the flexibility to take on extra work with aged care providers, which will increase the capacity of their employers and colleagues to respond to the pandemic,” Mr Hawke said.