Minister consults sector ahead of jobs summit

The recent aged care workforce roundtable provided a valuable opportunity to discuss the key issues, attendees tell AAA.

  
The recent aged care workforce roundtable discussed all the key issues and offered a valuable opportunity for providers to advocate and plan for the future, attendees tell Australian Ageing Agenda.

More than 20 stakeholders attended the aged care workforce roundtable last week at Parliament House. It brought providers, academics, advocates, union representatives and advisory council members together so that the government can better understand the practical solutions for the sector’s workforce issues.

Claerwen Little

Among them was Claerwen Little, national director of UnitingCare Australia – the national body of the Uniting Church’s network of service providers.

“It was an exciting event which brought together some of the best minds in the aged care sector. We were all united in our commitment to tackle the critical challenges before us and build a sustainable, innovative and world class aged care sector to support older Australians,” Ms Little told AAA.

Almost every workforce issue was covered, including training, minimum hours, retention, migration and funding for increased wages, she said.

“We also discussed best practice and incentives for clinical care workers to return to the aged care workforce, and that our aged care workers need a proper career progression path,” said Ms Little.

The roundtable was an opportunity to plan for the future and deliver on the reforms, she said. “We thank Minister Wells for her leadership and passion for finding a way forward for older Australians, their families, aged care workers and providers alike,” added Ms Little.

“Aged care reform needs to be done once and done well.”

Anika Wells

Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells led the event with former New South Wales premier Morris Iemma facilitating.

The roundtable provided an opportunity for sector stakeholders to suggest topics to be discussed during next week’s Jobs and Skills Summit on 1-2 September.

Issues discussed during the three-hour roundtable included job security, making aged care an attractive career, access to education and training, the role of migration and creating innovation.

Ms Wells said the event advanced discussions on critical topics that will lead the government’s reform measures across the sector.

“Aged care reform needs to be done once and done well and that’s why consultations like the Aged Care Workforce Pre-Jobs Summit Roundtable are crucial,” Ms Wells said in a statement. “It was great to see such healthy dialogue among a wide array of stakeholders.”

Ms Wells said government and stakeholders must work together in order to improve the lives of aged care workers and care recipients who have been neglected for far too long.
“We need ambition for aged care,” said Ms Wells. “We need to be innovative and have thought leadership.”

Remote and regional services a key topic of discussion

Also among the stakeholders attending was general manager of Australian Regional and Remote Community Services Wendy Hubbard. She told AAA attending the roundtable was a “valuable opportunity” to advocate on behalf of regional and remote care services.

Wendy Hubbard

“We were able to highlight the terrific work ARRCS does in ensuring we have enough skilled staff to provide culturally appropriate care in the Northern Territory and share our views for the solutions needed to ensure that regional and remote communities continue to receive the same level of care as our urban communities,” Ms Hubbard told AAA.

“We look forward to working with the Minster [Wells] and the federal government in delivering aged care to our regional and remote communities,” added Ms Hubbard.

BoltonClarke chief people officer Mel Leahy told AAA the provider was interested in a number of areas of discussion. “Wages – more investment to attract workers; a campaign to improve perception of aged care as a career; education, skill development and career paths; opening up aged care workers in their own visa class and speeding up processing time.”

Ms Leahy also said the sector needed to be a “more constructive” industrial environment. “Enterprise bargaining no longer works and creates an adversarial environment where providers simply can’t afford to put improved conditions on the table due to insufficient funding indexation.”

“The roundtable was a good start in setting out the key issues.”

Sector peak the Aged & Community Care Providers Association was also represented on the roundtable.

Paul Sadler

“We are looking forward to next month’s Jobs and Skills Summit and to working with the government and key stakeholders on developing a plan to address acute worker shortages in aged care,” ACCPA interim CEO Paul Sadler told AAA. “The roundtable was a good start in setting out the key issues which include staff shortages, pay and a recruitment plan.”

Staff need to be recruited as quickly as possible, added Mr Sadler, if providers are to meet the required minimum minutes of care. “We also need a practical and realistic plan to get there that avoids adding to the pressure that current staff are already facing.”

Mr Sadler also told AAA that, “Any workforce plan for aged care also needs to address home care, where new clients are already being turned away because the providers cannot find enough staff.”

Discussions must include dementia orgs

Maree McCabe

Meanwhile, noting that no-one representing people living with dementia attended the aged care roundtable, Dementia Australia released a media statement in which CEO Maree McCabe said any discussion informing the Jobs and Skills Summit must include quality dementia care and education as an issue.

“While it is crucial to have aged care providers and union representatives at the summit, it is equally important that those able to build the capacity of the workforce and develop meaningful and rewarding career pathways are also included,” Ms McCabe said. “Embedding a minimum level of compulsory dementia care education is as important as increasing staffing numbers and wages.”

Main image: Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells led a workforce roundtable with 20 stakeholders at Parliament House last week Source: Twitter

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Tags: anika wells, Claerwen-little, featured, maree mccabe, paul sadler, wendy hubbard,

4 thoughts on “Minister consults sector ahead of jobs summit

  1. Hi just wondering if anyone was there representing allied health workforce in future ? Or even mentioned allied health? I wasn’t asked to this and don’t know any allied health who were either . But I’m grateful to senate community affairs committee who invited me tomorrow 25 august 4pm to give evidence on allied health decline in nursing homes . Sadly without a solution allied health won’t have a future in aged care in the anacc. My company and allied healt professional organisations have put forward solutions we just need politicians to listen to stakeholders who want to make sure older people get physio and allied health

  2. I think Anika Wells will be a great minister, but this just looks like a love-in for sycophants.
    Still no representation from anyone who has actually worked on the floor?
    It’s hard to get excited about the same groups talking about the same issues that have been on the table for more than two decades. These ‘key stakeholders’ have been banging on about workforce planning, more funding and innovation (whatever that is) at conferences, summits and parliamentary inquiries for ever…what has been achieved?
    If we measure success in procrastination and self-congratulatory back-slapping, they’ve done a great job

  3. I tend to agree, @Petra. It would be good to see some discussion of the reasons people sometimes find working in aged care (and disability services) frustrating and less rewarding than it should be and how to address this. Michelle O’Neill, ACTU President recently observed:
    “The union movement sees an urgent need to lift wages. Too often employers claim a skills shortage when in reality there is a shortage of jobs with good wages and conditions”
    Attractive employment is about more than wages, but I think she’s making a fair point.

  4. OMG I was going to comment earlier but shied away. Instead I took my comments directly to the Minister, Anika Wells.
    I find it really frustrating to see and read about the same representation invited to discussions. I wonder if anyone has actually spoken with an on-the-ground worker and tried to understand the issues from the bottom up, as well.
    I’ve been that aged care worker with no career path and poor wages who laboured through an UG and PG study to now find her pathway stymied once again by Government, aged care providers, and other lobbyists. I’m an advocate of Counsellors in aged care and this is a career path that has not been recognised so far. Discussions about the future of career options must include a variety of voices!
    I’m going to assume that psychologists may have been included in the talk fest but not counsellors or their relevant associations. We are all part of that workforce supporting both good physical + mental health of older Australians. And no – asking workers to embed more learning and more noticing and responding to older people’s low moods for example, is not right. That work needs the intervention of skilled professionals like counsellors who can manage low or moderate MH issues.

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