The need for a national workforce plan covering the broad health and community services sector is back in focus this week with Assistant Minister for Social Service Mitch Fifield acknowledging the need for greater coordination in workforce planning between the aged care and disability sectors.
Speaking on ABC TV’s 730 program on Monday night, Senator Fifield said that any workforce strategy would have to “look at both aged care workforce and the disability workforce in tandem.”
“Both will be doubling at about the same time. What you do in aged care will have an effect in disability and vice versa,” he said.
His views were echoed in the new Environmental Scan 2014 which the Community Services & Health Industry Skills Council (CS&HISC) released this week.
The scan, based on industry consultation and research review, found that workforce planning for the care industry lacked “strategic engagement and coordination across governments and industry.”
“To avoid future shortages, Australia needs a health and community services workforce plan that considers the development of the whole workforce, is supported by high quality data and involves effective inter-agency collaboration and industry engagement,” the scan said.
The need for a whole-of-industry workforce plan was raised by several participants at the Aged Care Workforce Innovation Network (WIN) national forum hosted by CS&HISC in Sydney this week.
David Green, workforce strategy manager at UnitingCare, said there was a clear need for a consolidated approach to industry workforce. “But I see disparate sectors not talking to each other. We need to start talking to each other. I’m not sure how to do that,” he said.
Raymond Gouck, general manager of Hastings District Respite Care said that under a coordinated industry plan, the aged care sector and disability sector could use the same staff.
“We find there are common elements required of workers from both sectors,” he said. “However, what’s happened in industry is that there have been silos formed around each of the sectors and we are trying to treat the [commonalities] between sectors differently. That is one of the mindsets we will have to change over coming years.”
Mr Gouck said a whole-of-industry workforce plan would provide for flexibility in the sector. “We need flexibility of staff to enable them to move around between the disability and aged care sectors, to accommodate for staff shortages that we will see in coming years.
“We need to develop flexible, multi-talented skilled staff able to work in aged care or disability. And to look at competencies being taught. They are largely very similar [between the sectors] and a small degree of specialisation is required.”
Mr Gouck encouraged the sector to “move out of the silos and share services” with disability.