Fully funded pay rise welcome, but concerns providers will stash cash

Sector stakeholders have welcomed the government’s pre-budget announcement that it will fully fund the 15 per cent pay increase to aged care workers.

Sector stakeholders have welcomed the government’s pre-budget announcement that it will fully fund the 15 per cent pay increase to aged care workers.

Mike Baird

“While we do need to see all the detail, we are incredibly appreciative that the federal government has committed to the increase awarded by the Fair Work Commission and delivered on it. It is truly welcome,” said HammondCare chief executive Mike Baird.

“Anyone that’s had someone in aged care knows the impact that our aged care workers have. Each day and night they change lives. To me, what this announcement is about is our country saying to our aged care workers that their work matters.”

The budget funding – which includes on-costs – amounts to an additional $11.3 billion for the sector over four years, the government announced on Thursday.

From 1 July, 250,000 workers will receive the pay increase – including registered nurses, enrolled nurses, personal care workers, head chefs and cooks, and lifestyle officers.

“It is very much deserved recognition for their commitment to helping vulnerable people in need,” said Mr Baird.

Jason Kara

Jason Kara, aged care director of Catholic Health Australia – the peak body representing Catholic providers of health, community and aged care services – said fully funding the pay rise was the right thing to do.

“We welcome the federal government’s historic investment in our aged care workforce. Improved wages are critical to attracting and retaining staff and delivering quality care to older Australians.”

Aged care providers, said Mr Kara, would be “incredibly relieved” that the funding has been confirmed.

“With 70 per cent of all aged care homes running at a loss, it would have been impossible to shift the cost of the pay rise to providers without negatively impacting care for residents.”

Having seen staff “work tirelessly” throughout three years of the Covid pandemic, Mr Kara said: “I know providers are greatly looking forward to passing on this wage increase so they can reward their teams with more than thanks.”

Craig Barke

Craig Barke – CEO of Queensland aged care provider BlueCare – said the announcement would help address the chronic ongoing staff shortages facing the industry, particularly in outer-metro areas of Australia.

“The viability of the whole sector has been under threat in recent years, especially in smaller regional and rural areas, where the lack of available nurses and carers has been most felt,” said Mr Barke.

“We believe the increased wages will not only encourage people to work in aged care but also alleviate the unprecedented levels of staff turnover experienced across the sector, which has further compromised sustainability.”

Jason Eldering

CEO of Southern Cross Care Queensland Jason Eldering described the announcement as “fantastic” adding: “Aged care workers across the country deserve to be renumerated for the incredible work that they do, and they have been undervalued for far too long.”

However, Mr Eldering said the wage hike alone will not solve the aged care crisis. “We need to change the way we think about the delivery of aged care – particularly in regional and remote areas where both staff and people in care are suffering the most.”

Patricia Sparrow

Patricia Sparrow – chief executive of advocacy organisation Council on the Ageing Australia – said the $11 billion in budget funding would go a long way to ensuring older Australians receive the quality care they expect.

“You can’t have a great aged care system if you’re not paying the people working in the system what they deserve,” she said.

“The aged care workforce is essential to ensuring the health, wellbeing and dignity of thousands of older Australians. Older people know that paying workers fairly for the job they do is crucial.”

The aged care workforce has been undervalued for far too long, said Ms Sparrow. “This is a fantastic announcement and one which will make a marked difference to the sector’s ability to attract and retain quality aged care workers in Australia.”

The Older People’s Advocacy Network also welcomed the announcement – ahead of the federal budget on 9 May.

Samantha Edmonds

OPAN’s director policy and systemic advocacy Samantha Edmonds said the wage boost is “incredibly significant” for aged care workers – especially for women who account for more than 80 per cent of the workforce.

“It’s a win for women and families struggling with cost-of-living pressures who haven’t been rewarded for the work they do, and we hope this will encourage more people to take up work in the aged care sector.”

Meanwhile – while welcoming the government’s funding commitment – the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation expressed serious concerns that some workers may be denied the increase because the government has failed to impose rules on how providers allocate the cash.

Annie Butler

“While we’re pleased that the government has delivered on its promise to increase aged care wages, our big concern is that many nursing home operators won’t pass on the money intended for workers,” said ANMF federal secretary Annie Butler. “There’s been a long history of lost wages and workers have been consistently let down.”

Acknowledging some providers will do the right thing, Ms Butler added: “But the government cannot give it to the providers on trust. Trust is not enough. As we’ve seen with previous government investments in aged care, with no accountability and mechanisms in place, the money never actually gets into workers’ pockets.”

Graeme Prior

The Aged Care Workforce Industry Council also urged all providers to pass on the increase to staff.

“Taking steps to ensure aged care workers are paid fairly for the vital work they do is essential to ensuring a sustainable and high-quality aged care sector in the years to come,” said ACWIC deputy chair Graeme Prior.

On behalf of HammondCare, Mr Baird reassured workers every dollar the dementia care provider receives will go towards increasing the wages of frontline aged care staff.

Mr Barke also confirmed BlueCare had already pledged to pass on the funding for the pay increase to staff in full.

“Aged care workers look after some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and this is long-awaited acknowledgement of the critical role they play,” he said.

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Tags: acwic, anmf, Annie Butler, bluecare, budget 2023, cha, cota-australia, craig barke, graeme prior, hammondcare, jason kara, maike baird, opan, partricia sparrow, pay rise, samantha edmonds,

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