Direct care roles in aged care homes have increased by almost a third over four years, according to the latest workforce census.

There were 277,671 residential aged care workers in November 2020 including 208,903 direct care staff, 52,801 working in hotel services, 14,021 people in management and administrative roles and more than 1,946 workers in pastoral care and educational roles, the Australian Government’s 2020 Aged Care Workforce Census shows.

It also shows that 201,542 direct care workers were employed on a permanent, casual or contractor basis, up 31 per cent since 2016 and 37 per cent since 2012.

This represents 129,151 full time equivalent direct care positions, an increase of 32 per cent since 2016, according to the report released last week.

The majority of direct care employees are personal care workers (70 per cent) followed by nurses (23 per cent) and allied health professionals (7 per cent).

The report also shows there were 22,000 vacant direct care roles in 2020.

Aged Care Workforce Industry Council chair Libby Lyons said this number would increase if the aged care sector did not urgently address issues with attracting staff.

Libby Lyons

“I fear that that is going to go up, not down,” Ms Lyons told a Committee for Economic Development of Australia forum last Friday.

The 2020 census received data from 1,329 residential aged care facilities (49 per cent), down from 2,240 facilities the previous census (76 per cent) in 2016.

The residential aged care workforce is getting younger, with more than half of workers aged under 40.

Most aged care workers are aged 30-39 (28 per cent) followed by 20-29 years (23 per cent), 40-49 years (19 per cent), 50-59 years (18 per cent), 60 years and over (10 per cent) and under 20 (1 per cent), the report said.

By contrast in 2016, most aged care workers were aged 50-59 (29 per cent) followed by 40-49 years (24 per cent), 30-39 years (19 per cent), 20-29 years (15 per cent), 60 years and over (13 per cent) and under 20 (1 per cent).

Age of the residential aged care workforce. Source: 2020 Aged Care Workforce Census

Workforce qualifications

Two-thirds of personal care workers hold a Certificate III or higher while 2 per cent were studying at the time of the census, the report said.

Ms Lyons said there was still a way to go to ensure staff were adequately trained.

“We need all those people trained and they need to have access to quality training, because again, I think at the moment that the quality of training is variable and we need to make sure that we can get consistent good training for everybody,” Ms Lyons said.

“The royal commission actually recommended that by the 1st of July next year that 100 per cent of personal care workers should have a cert III qualification. Somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen. But it doesn’t mean we don’t keep trying,” she said.

Impact of COVID-19

The census also looked at the impact of COVID-19 on the paid and volunteer aged care workforce.

It found 9 per cent of aged care facilities reported a decrease in their direct care workforce because of pandemic while 44 per cent reported an increase and 47 per cent reported no change.

However, COVID-19 halved the number volunteers providing support in residential aged care.

In the last two weeks of November 2020, facilities said they were supported by 12,000 volunteers compared to 23,537 in 2016.

Richard Colbeck

Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services Richard Colbeck said the census provided a benchmark for government as it continued to roll out aged care reform.

“Right across the aged care sector we continue to see examples of a workforce that is determined to make individual care a priority,” Mr Colbeck said.

“This has been showcased during the pandemic as employees – particularly in residential care settings – have put the needs of residents ahead of their own.”

“From direct care staff to those working behind the scenes, these are workers who have been there for our loved ones when family and friends could not,” he said.

Access the census.

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3 Comments

  1. As we have repeatedly said we NEED to bring in qualified staff from overseas… NOW!!!!

    We have the Pacific islanders agreement in place for farm workers and OTHER industry Labour shortages,

    We have over 300,000 unemployed or underemployed Nurses in the PHILIPPINES, I have tried to bring this to everyone’s attention but nobody wants to know!!! SO what now…. Someone please contact me and let me tell you how we can solve this problem NOW! Thanks
    Robert

  2. Recommendation 78 from Royal Commission : “A Certificate 3 should be the mandatory minimum qualification required for personal care workers performing paid work in aged care.”
    Government’s response: “This recommendation is subject to further consideration through the development of the whole‐of‐government Care Workforce Strategy.”
    We’d hoped for some action after the Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce.
    Then we hoped for some action after the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
    Yet our federal government simply continues to kick the can down the road.

  3. Qualifications exist for a range of professions even at the level of work like volunteering. Admittedly, it’s not mandatory but volunteering certification is now seen as a pathway for at-risk young people to develop skills.

    I’ve never understood the rationale for a PCW in residential or a SW (or similar) in community to NOT have the minimum qualification, C3 of something. That’s the absolute minimum. If one chooses to work in this sector, one should be mandated to get the minimum qualification with organisations supporting a SW to complete or go through the certification process. Equally, it’s the worker’s obligation to get a minimum qualification. As an example, a family member, driving for Transdev some years ago, was required to undergo a C3 in relevant transport certification which was part of the job agreement. When the family member left job, they were required to repay the balance of the training. To me, that seemed a fair agreement as it was part of the work contract.

    There are so many opportunities to be creative in this sector but the sector continues to hamper or be hampered. Employing overseas nurses and aged care workers is not the single answer. When we move nurses from one country, that country experiences a displacement of skilled staff and loss of familial supports, well documented in research. Transference of a skilled group, mainly women, means their children need supports from extended family. When they move to Australia, that person or family also needs expansive supports. As a counsellor, I have heard some horrific stories from migrant nurses. We need to create a sustainable aged care workforce in this country and an occupation that is respected. We could also recognise that aged care workers have ambitions and won’t always stay at this level.

    Incidentally, there are some clear reasons for the sector attracting younger people. The comment above is so misleading and without context. I would suggest that the sector is particularly attractive to young women who have caring responsibilities and need flexibility whether for study or other reasons. It certainly was for me at 40! I am sure that a large proportion of aged care workers also started at younger ages. What might have been relevant is to also understand how long that cohort had worked in the sector.

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