Above: Julie Collins MP (centre, red shoes) at OneCare in Kingston, Tasmania.
The Minister for Community Services and federal Member of Parliament for Franklin, (Tasmania) Julie Collins, spent a day in the life of an aged care worker today.
Ms Collins, who is also the Minister Indigenous Employment and Economic Development, and Minister for the Status of Women, worked a ‘buddy’ shift with two Health and Community Service Union (HACSU) members rostered on shift at OneCare in Kingston, Tasmania.
HACSU campaign coordinator, Megan Lewis, said that the experience was an important opportunity for Ms Collins to gain first-hand experience of a typical days work in aged care.
“It is vital that politicians understand the realities of working in aged care with high workloads and not enough time to provide the elderly with the quality of life and care they deserve,” Ms Lewis said.
“They have to handle people suffering from a full range of illnesses of the aged. They have to cope with the deaths of people they have got to know and care for with distressing frequency. It is time our aged care workers got the recognition they deserve and were made a priority in aged care reform.
“HACSU members in Tasmania and aged care workers from all over Australia have been lobbying federal MPs telling them their industry is in crisis and the quality of aged care is in serious jeopardy unless reform addressed the appallingly low wages and conditions of aged care workers.”
“Aged care workers do skilled, sensitive and extremely demanding work and are typically paid just $17 an hour – less than half the average Australian wage.
“Staff turnover now runs from 25 per cent to 45 per cent annually, how will we possibly attract the predicted 500,000 more workers we’ll need by 2050 if we can’t even keep the ones we have now?”
Ms Lewis said the government deserves credit for the aged care reform process that it has announced.
But, it is critical that politicians such as Ms Collins put pressure on the Treasurer Wayne Swan to allocate funds in the coming Federal Budget sufficient to raise wages at least to $26 an hour.
“The funds must be earmarked for salary increases so they can’t be absorbed into other parts of the system,” Megan Lewis said.
“All Australians deserve the right to age well. They deserve the quality, dignity and choice which the current system can’t deliver. The Australians Deserve to Age Well Blueprint for Reform outlines a way for government to responsibly prepare for our future starting in 2012 – before the situation gets any worse.”
HACSU is partnering with all the major aged care providers, unions, consumer groups and professionals under the banner National Aged Care Alliance to campaign for greatly improved funding and reform for aged care.