Sector shares common goals at jobs summit

Providers, peak advocacy groups, unions, charities and research bodies call on the government to place greater value on the aged care industry.

The aged care sector has come together at the Jobs and Skills Summit to issue a joint statement of common interests for much-needed reform to support the aged care workforce.

Peak advocacy groups, providers, unions, charities, and research bodies have united to put their names to a statement of intent that calls on government and society to place a greater value on the care sector.

The statement is signed by:

  • Catholic Health Australia
  • Uniting NSW.ACT
  • Benevolent Society
  • Health Sector Union
  • United Workers Union
  • Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation
  • Aged Care Research and Industry Innovation Australia.

The joint statement calls on the Albanese Government to:

  • ensure quality care for all older Australians delivered by a valued aged care workforce in quality, secure jobs
  • immediately implement any decision coming out of the Fair Work Commission’s
    Aged Care Work Value Case to introduce better remuneration for the aged care
  • secure a genuine long-term commitment from government to link sector funding
    to pay decisions
  • introduce a nationwide scheme to waive/reimburse fees (including HECS) for
    people who work in the health and aged care sectors, with additional incentives for
    people who choose to work in regional and remote areas
  • identify and promote more attractive career pathways and incentives to specialise
    to encourage greater workforce retention
  • commence discussions between the sector and all levels of government to ensure
    there are affordable housing options in communities for aged care workers –
    especially in regional and remote areas
  • participate in consultation regarding sector-wide bargaining that would include the
    Commonwealth’s participation
  • invest in better ways to systematically link long-term unemployed and other groups
    of marginalised job seekers with the opportunity for a career in aged care and
    provide better and longer-term wraparound support once placed.

The statement follows an announcement of a Federal Government agreement with the states and territories to pour $1.1 billion into skills and training.

National Cabinet has also agreed to fund a further 180,000 fee-free TAFE positions across the country.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the deal on Thursday at the Jobs and Skills Summit at Parliament House, Canberra.

“In recognition of the urgent challenges facing our nation, we are taking action now – with a billion-dollar training blitz driven by public TAFE,” Mr Albanese said.

“We want to see more Australians gaining the skills they need to find good jobs, in areas of national priority. And I want this to be the beginning, not the end, of the progress that we see on skills and training over the next two days.”

Catholic Health Australia chief executive officer Pat Garcia said the funding for training would assist the aged care sector to fill staff vacancies.

Pat Garcia

“A nationwide scheme to waive fees for students who commit to working in the health and aged care sectors will help, and it’s great to see the Commonwealth put more money into fee-free places at TAFE,” Mr Garcia told Australian Ageing Agenda.

CHA is taking part in the two-day jobs summit as a voice for the not-for-profit health and aged care sector.

The peak body has been calling for the introduction of a nationwide scheme to defer fees for students who commit to working in the health and aged care sectors as a key plank to addressing the workforce crisis.

CHA – whose members manage 25,000 residential aged care beds and 25,000 home care clients – is also advocating for the easing of migration restrictions to encourage more people to come to Australia to work in health and aged care.

“The Government could immediately add personal care workers to the skilled migration list, increase quotas, issue more temporary visas and reduce processing times by [the Department of] Home Affairs,” said Mr Garcia.

“We also need to identify and promote ways of attracting more people to the sector and then retaining them,” Mr Garcia told AAA. “We should also find ways of working with unions to develop an increased scope of practice for nurses and aged care workers to examine options for greater flexibility to deploy where needed.”

The funding could also help train allied health professionals, such as speech pathologists who are in short supply across the aged care sector.

“Workforce shortages in aged care speech pathology are now becoming more acute,” a Speech Pathology Australia spokesperson told AAA. “Speech pathologists are a vital part of the multidisciplinary team in aged care providing assessment and tailored intervention to meet the needs of older people with communication and swallowing difficulties.”

The spokesperson added: “With an ageing population we will need to be able to attract a greater number of speech pathologists to aged care.”

“The summit is an opportunity to prioritise health professions that are undervalued.”

APA national president Scott Willis

Meanwhile, the Australian Physiotherapy Association hopes the Jobs and Skills Summit is a turning point for the nation’s health workforce and is lobbying for a coordinated national plan to address broader skills shortages.

APA represents the fourth largest group of registered primary health care professionals in the country.

Scott Willis

Its national president Scott Willis said the summit – which brings together employers, unions, advocates and key ministers to address the country’s economic challenges – is a critical moment for meaningful policy development and urgently needed to avoid a health workforce crisis.

“The pandemic has exposed a broken healthcare system and policy inaction has seen the skills profile of the care and support workforce deteriorate. It is vital the summit looks beyond simply increasing the numbers of doctors and nurses,” said Mr Willis, who last week warned a senate committee looking into aged care reform legislation about the exodus of allied health practitioners from the aged care sector.

“We welcome Health Minister Mark Butler’s commitment to growing and supporting the health workforce and recognition of physiotherapy as an essential health profession. The summit presents an opportunity to prioritise health professions that are undervalued, and combat their resulting high attrition rates,” he added.

The APA is calling for considered investment in health disciplines experiencing shortages and funded solutions to facilitate appropriate skill mix in addressing patient need. 

A focus on attracting and retaining critical skills, and enabling higher-level skills, is key to addressing quality and supply concerns, said Mr Willis.

“Lifting participation, and reducing barriers to employment can ameliorate the key issue of retention. Priority should be placed on the professionally qualified clinical and regulated staff groups, including doctors and nurses, but further encompassing vital allied health professions.”

APA would like to see a training pipeline developed to ensure the physiotherapy workforce is able to meet the needs of the Australian population, both now and into the future, said Mr Willis. 

“This can start with removing the barriers currently faced by physiotherapists supervising and training our next generation.”

“A robust care economy is essential in ensuring no-one is left behind.”

Lin Hatfield Dodds

The Benevolent Society – which manages home care services – is also calling for an agenda that addresses the shortage in labour supply and skills mix.

It is advocating for migration settings that attract the specific skills required by the care economy, such as allied health professionals.

“Australia needs better pathways for skills and training in human services to create opportunities and lift pay for lower skill workers, as well as improving the quality of care,” said Benevolent Society CEO Lin Hatfield Dodds. 

Government should resource service providers that train their workforce through in-house and on-the-job training, she said.

“Resourced properly, this would be an effective way to rapidly expand the care workforce, addressing shortages at the lower skills levels of the care economy. Better and more reliable care requires a workforce sized to meet demand and improved worker skills rewarded by higher take home pay.”

Systems change is also required to drive higher quality and reliability in the care sector, added Ms Hatfield Dodds “A robust care economy is essential to ensuring no one is left behind and the summit will help shape the agenda for how we get to that point.”

Sally McManus

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus was one of a number of union representatives at the summit.

Ms McManus told delegates: “I want to be clear about the union movement’s ambitions. Australia needs sustainable pay increases so that working people’s pay keeps up with the cost of living and productivity increases.

“We also want the work of people like healthcare workers, aged care workers and teachers to be properly respected and valued.”

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Tags: actu, anthony albanese, australian physiotherapy association, benevolent society, catholic health australia, featured, jobs and skills summit, Lin Hartfield Dodds, Pat Garcia, sally mcmanus, scott willis, speech pathology australia,

1 thought on “Sector shares common goals at jobs summit

  1. “A nationwide scheme to waive fees for students who commit to working in the health and aged care sectors will help, and it’s great to see the Commonwealth put more money into fee-free places at TAFE,” Mr Garcia told Australian Ageing Agenda.

    While this is one way to attract workers, some of us have committed to the sector from early 2000s with very little respect and commitment from the sector itself. I may be in my early 60s but I still have a HECS debt as a result of doing a PG course. Certainly, my commitment to ageing + aged care started in 2001 when I started with an UG course and continued much later, always focusing my assignments on aged care.
    Hmmm…. I’d like the sector to be more supportive of people who commit to study and be more respectful of people’s commitment to the sector. I’m still trying to get recognition for counselling and counsellors in aged care, and that barrier is often placed by an organisation.

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