Are aged care workers really the budget’s big winners?

Although the federal budget delivered key aged care incentives designed to help staff improve their skills, the government failed to deliver what was really needed- funding for wage increases.

Aged care workers have been hailed as one of the federal budget’s big winners despite the government’s failure to provide funding for future, much-needed, wage increases.

Last night the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, announced a new package worth more than $103 million, designed to help aged care staff improve their skills.

The 2010/2011 package will include almost $60 million for sector staff to upgrade their qualifications; around $19 million for nurse practitioners; $7 million to increase and support business efficiency in aged care; $3.5 million to explore a national registration scheme for personal care workers and assistants in nursing and $500,000 to study the skills and residential care needs in aged care.

During Mr Swan’s budget delivery to parliament he stated that the government “will build the skills base and capital stock we need for a new generation of prosperity.” But not everyone remains so confident.

National Seniors chief executive, Michael O’Neill, cautiously welcomed the extra funding to tackle the skill shortage in the sector but was not overly impressed with the lack of cash needed to increase the wages of aged care workers.

The government did not “go far enough in terms of bridging the gap to make aged care a financially attractive sector to work in,” said Mr O’Neill.

“Overall the budget was never going to have significant gains for older Australians given the pension increases last year.

“The [government] must make aged care wages and salaries competitive with the nursing market in order to attract people into the industry.”

Mr O’Neill said that it was vital for the Commonwealth to make a commitment to wage increases, offer stronger leadership on the wage issue and provide the details of how and when increases will be delivered.

Unfortunately, according to Mr O’Neill, seniors and their families lost confidence in the government even before the budget release. Now that the budget has failed to address the real issues presented by an ageing population, he expects that further faith could be lost.

The recent measures “won’t be enough until the government resolves the issue of sustainability in this country and attaches the same importance to aged care that they have attached to other [sectors].”

The Australian Nursing Federation, (ANF) however, was delighted with the budget’s aged care incentives.

Federal Secretary of the ANF, Ged Kearney, said that the budget was a huge win for aged care nurses, care staff and the residents they care for.

Although Ms Kearney sung the government’s praises, she was “disappointed that there was no money to increase the wages gap.”

Hopeful for future wage increases, she now looks towards the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into aged care to deliver further reform and remains “confident that we will see some improvements in that area.”

Tags: 201011, aged, budget, care, commission, productivity,

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