An aged care CEO has written an open letter to the Federal Government to highlight the shortcomings of the aged care retention bonus and particularly its poor definition of direct care worker.

It has been just over three months since the government announced $235 million for a COVID-19 retention bonus for direct care workers in residential and home aged care as part of a $445 million funding boost for the sector.

Not long after aged care provider and worker representatives began calling for the bonus to be expanded to all residential aged care workers after it became clear only personal care workers, registered nurses, enrolled nurses and allied health workers were eligible.

Peninsula Villages CEO Shane Neaves said he was always disappointed about the retention bonus eligibility but didn’t feel as a smaller independent not-for-profit provider he had the capacity to make a difference.

However, he said he has since realised the gravity of the funding gap and wanted to speak up.

Shane Neaves

Another tipping point came when it was revealed the bonus is a grant funded scheme that involves a lot of paperwork and red tape to apply for, adding more resources at an already challenging time, Mr Neaves said.

“The sector is financially struggling and while any support from the Government is welcomed, the funding has been decided by someone who has clearly no understanding of the sector,” Mr Neaves told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“Aged care providers don’t treat residents differently based on their RAD or DAP [payment method], wealth or circumstance. Why should it be any different for aged care teams?”

Letter targets poor definition of direct care

Mr Neaves’ open letter sent to the Federal Government this week aims to highlight how insufficient the grant is with its poor definition of a direct care worker.

“Shame on you Government,” Mr Neaves said. “Any management, human resources or workplace culture specialist will reveal that the promotion of equality, teamwork and an engaged workforce will lead to increased productivity, retention and success.”

Instead, the retention bonus divides the workforce into those rewarded and those not, which splits the most important factor in providing holistic care, he said.

“I openly invite the Government to address the ‘non-direct care’ workers who have risked their own personal safety to work in the aged care sector and provide important interaction with our residents as to why they aren’t being rewarded. Only recognising one side of the sector is poor form,” he said.

Mr Neaves highlighted several staff members across areas of the facility who care for more than 300 residents across Peninsula Villages’ three facilities on the NSW Central Coast but are ineligible for the bonus.

Among those was Sue in reception, who provides high-level assistance to residents and their families with all their day to day functions.

“Her goal is to be involved assisting our residents in maintaining an active lifestyle. Whether it is assisting with direction to activities, family concerns or organising outings, this role is key to residents feeling safe and involved in their community. But once again – not considered ‘direct care’ – the front line of the organisation,” Mr Neaves said.

Sue (centre) with Peninsula Villages residents

For the industry, laundry, environmental, cleaning, grounds and garden, catering, maintenance and administration services all play an extremely important role in the direct care of aged care residents and holistic care would be significantly compromised without them, he said.

He called on his counterparts in aged care to support their staff and acknowledge they are doing incredibly well in a challenging environment.

“CEOs could do their bit by sharing their voice and concerns with their local Federal Member because the way this has been defined is not fair or just.

“It places extra pressure, divide and segregation on people working in aged care, when they need to come together and continue to support a struggling sector,” Mr Neaves said.

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9 Comments

  1. I agree all employees in the Aged Care sector whether it is in Residential Care or Home Care, deserve the Retention Bonus.
    Domestic Staff, Team Leaders, Scheduling team members, Maintenance team members, to name a few are all woven into the fabric of caring for our aged customers.
    If you do not have the wool you can not make a blanket
    All are equally important and all work as hard as each other, just with different tasks.

  2. All Aged Care waged employees – Residential, Home Care AND CHSP (CHSP funded staff were completely overlooked – that made some very awkward conversations) should get the Retention Bonus.

  3. The grant process needs to be simplified and I can not fathom why in the Home & Community setting Support Workers who provide care to Home Care Package (HCP) clients are eligible but those who provide care to Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) clients are ineligible.. This will just create a divide within the sector as no matter the funding body the clients are still receiving care and the workers performing the same tasks.

  4. For those interested, I sent the following to the Minister of Health, plus the shadow minister, the Greens and the Nurses Federation.

    Only the Shadow Minister replied – to her credit and thanks for doing so.

    Dear Minister

    I wish to register my concerns in respect of the following.

    WORKFORCE RETENTION BONUS GRANT– RESIDENTIAL CARE AND HOME CARE.

    First, this grant is profoundly divisive. By awarding the money to direct carers only, the minister fails to understand the role that other services play in the day to day care of the resident in the aged care facility.

    Direct carers such as RNs, ENs, and various Assistants in Nursing, are simply a very small group of people engaged in the care process. Without cleaners, cooks, laundry staff, Diversional Therapists, Health and Leisure staff, and in fact office and management personnel, residential care facilities could not function. We are all part of a team. We all ‘care’, both actively and passively. We were all ‘at risk’. We all played our part. To single out one group and pay them the bonus, whilst ignoring their colleagues is mean spirited and divisive.

    Second, the taxing of the bonus is similarly cruel and disrespectful of the work that staff in residential care carry out on a day to day basis.

    This is relentlessly hard work, particularly for those such as Nursing Assistants who are lucky if they earn between $20 to $25 per hour. The work they do is backbreaking and emotionally confronting. Nursing Assistants toilet, bathe, feed, dress, and provide emotional support for residents and are typically the people who sit with the elderly as they die. This is profoundly difficult work.

    Often the residents they care for have very challenging behaviours. This means that they, the Nursing Assistants, frequently endure verbal and physical aggression whilst providing intimate care. In fact, working as a carer in a nursing home, especially working in a dementia wing, is one of the very few jobs that you can expect to be assaulted whilst in your workplace. And now you want to tax even the meagre amount of money you are paying these people?

    Shame on you and your party.

    Sincerely

    Tony Schumacher-Jones RN. PhD.
    Behaviour Consultant
    2013 Churchill Fellow.

  5. Minister Colbeck needs to review and rectify this whole mistake of a process immediately!
    The Grant process is clunky, time-consuming and difficult to manage for already stretched providers.
    The payment is both unfair and divisive in the way it is allocated and does not reflect the value of the workers who do not receive this money.
    It would be wonderful if all providers had the ability to match the payment for the rest of their staff, but many are in no position to do that, often due to being not-for-profit and also the continual cuts to provider payments from government through the funding system.
    This is exactly as the Royal Commission has already discovered, women-dominated industries are always undervalued.
    The work we do looking after the most vulnerable members of society has never reflected in our pay packets and it’s about time it did!

  6. I work in aged care in the hospitality side. We have direct contact with residents. We cut up their food. Help them sit down. Help them get up. Assist them with eating if they need it. We also do various tasks outside of our roles as hospitality staff because the residents come first.
    It’s a slap in the face that we don’t get this. We provide care to residents. The hospitality side of aged care really is seen as not important and we are second class citizens. The government has shown that.

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