Peaks call for urgent action on workforce issues

The Australian Aged Care Collaboration is calling on the Australian Government to commit to adding aged care workers to the Immigration Skilled Occupation List in a six-point plan to address the sector’s acute workforce shortages.

A coalition of aged care peak bodies is calling on the Fedeisral Government to add aged care workers to the list of skilled occupations for migrants among six key points to address the sector’s workforce shortages. 

The Australian Aged Care Collaboration said the aged care sector was reaching crisis point as the availability of workers was low and the workforce under extreme pressure.

Aged and Community Services Australia CEO and AACC spokesperson Paul Sadler said the group welcomed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement this week allowing 200,000 fully vaccinated skilled workers to enter the country from 1 December.

However, while registered nurses in aged care are covered in the Immigration Skilled Occupation List personal care workers are not.

“[It] might not mean much for aged care unless the aged care workers are put on the skilled occupation list for immigration. We’re hoping the government responds positively to that,” Mr Sadler told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Paul Sadler

“We’ve had communication from right across the country of aged care homes unable to admit new residents, even closing down beds due to the inability to secure workers,” he said.

Mr Sadler said existing workforce issues have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the closed international border, single site working arrangements in residential aged care and aged care staff going to work at COVID-19 vaccination clinics.

“They’ve all contributed and they’ve laid on top of what we all knew was the long-term challenge of finding enough workers to support the ageing population,” Mr Sadler said.

The AACC is also calling on the Federal Government to:

  • support aged care providers to pay a competitive wage by formally agreeing to fund the outcome of the Fair Work Commission Work Value Case
  • incentivise nursing students to work in aged care
  • incentivise prospective care and support workers
  • develop a VET pathway program for secondary school students into aged care, particularly home care, in conjunction with state and territory education departments
  • offer enrolled nurses subsidies to upskill as registered nurses.

The six points need to be implemented as soon as possible and at the same time, Mr Sadler said.

“Any of these incentive programs or pathway programs take a while to implement so you need to get started straightaway. Even implementing a foreign worker’s visa capacity, we’ve still got to obtain and then train the staff, so that doesn’t happen overnight,” he said.

Mr Sadler said the government has not formally responded to the AACC’s call for action despite receiving it a fortnight ago.

“What we’d like to see from the aged care collaboration point of view is the government to respond fulsomely to these six points and indicate what they’re going to do in response,” he said.

Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services Richard Colbeck did not commit to implementing the AACC’s six points in response to questions from AAA. But he said the government recognised the additional staffing pressures in aged care and communicated with stakeholders weekly.

Richard Colbeck

 “The aged care workforce has already demonstrated enormous determination to protect the lives of senior Australians in care, even as demands have increased during this challenging time,” Mr Colbeck told AAA.

“We are confident as vaccination rates continue to rise and borders reopen, the acute pressures on the aged care staffing will ease,” he said.

Mr Colbeck reiterated existing workforce measures including eased visa restrictions to allow international students to work more than 40 hours a fortnight, supporting 67 workers to work for aged care providers in the Northern Territory and Queensland under the Pacific Labour Scheme in the last month and 2021 budget measures in response to the royal commission’s recommendations including a commitment bonus for registered nurses.

In addition to ACSA, the AACC includes Leading Aged Care Services Australia, Anglicare Australia, Baptist Care Australia, Catholic Health Australia and UnitingCare Australia.  

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Tags: aacc, Australian Aged Care Collaboration, featured, migrant workers, paul sadler, policy, workforce,

2 thoughts on “Peaks call for urgent action on workforce issues

  1. Question: Why do Australians not work in aged care?
    Answer: Because the job is to distasteful for them and the money is rubbish.
    Solution: Get people from Asia and Africa to work in aged care, pay them rubbish, and they won’t complain because they are frightened their visas may be in jeopardy.
    Problem: Most would not know the difference between delirium and a dementia; have little understanding of complex areas such as sexuality, gender identity, individual rights, and many cannot speak English adequately or write English to even a standard of year 10.
    Problem solved.

  2. I’m curious about the migration pathway that will incentivise prospective care and support workers. Does this mean that people who express interest, whether in metro or regional, will have a clear pathway to permanent residency after say a 2-year temporary visa? While I view the migration of care + support workers as problematic in terms of loss of (care) labour in the home country, I also view this as an opportunity for a new Australian care labour pool that’s young, mobile, educated, tech savvy and possibly multi-skilled. Presumably that pathway means that such persons need to possibly go through some learning process in their home country to demonstrate competence and interest in the aged care sector. I’ll be watching this development with interest.

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