Renewed calls to regulate personal care workforce

Australia’s professional association for nurses is calling for minimum education requirements and nationally consistent terminology for the nation’s unregulated health and aged care workers.

Australia’s national professional association for nurses has released a report calling for minimum education requirements and nationally consistent terminology for the nation’s unregulated health and aged care workers.

The Australian College of Nursing released the white paper Regulation of the Unregulated Health Care Workforce across the health care system at its annual Policy Summit in Canberra last week.

The paper, which was developed by ACN’s Workforce Sustainability Policy Chapter, investigated the key issues surrounding unregulated health care workers across primary, acute and aged care settings and makes recommendations to the Australian government to improve the workforce.

Among those recommendations, the paper calls for nationally consistent regulation of personal care workers that includes a minimum qualification before working in residential aged care and ongoing professional development.

Australian College of Nursing chief executive officer Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward said minimum education levels were required to ensure older Australians were receiving care from skilled professionals.

“The ACN calls on the Commonwealth Government to ensure that unregulated health care workers are better equipped with the training and assessment when entering the workforce,” Professor Ward told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward

It is a key issue because personal care workers make up 70 per cent of the residential aged care workforce, she said.

Australian College of Nursing chair of the Ageing Policy Chapter Professor Deborah Parker raised this issue at the aged care royal commission into in February saying personal care workers were taking on the roles of registered nurses with minimal training due to a staffing shortfall in the aged care sector (read more here).

ACN’s report highlights the variability in educational preparedness among personal care workers and the subsequent inconsistencies with recruiting staff into specific roles, along with a lack of a national code of conduct and consistent national qualification requirements for unregulated health care workers in Australia.

ACN backs calls for personal care workers to be licensed to improve transparency.

“They are not licensed or governed through national regulation, which means there is no transparency or protection for the public,” Professor Ward said.

The Aged Care Workforce Taskforce led by Professor John Pollaers recommended centralised registration of all care workers and volunteers.

Professor Ward said inconsistencies with job titles also needed to be addressed.

“Across the country and within different health settings, their job title, scope of practice and responsibilities vary. ACN believes there should be nationally consistent titles to reduce inconsistencies and improve clarity,” Professor Ward said.

Professor Ward said changes needed to be made to the workforce to ensure the future needs of older Australians could be met.

The ACN paper recommends:

  • unregulated health care workers must be regulated and nationally consistent nomenclature or titles, code of conduct, professional standards and scope of practice must be developed and implemented
  • the unregulated health care workforce must be regulated to achieve nationally consistent, minimum educational and ongoing professional development requirements.

Access the Regulation of the Unregulated Health Care Workforce across the health care system white paper here.

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Tags: Aged Care Act 1997, Aged Care Workforce Taskforce report, Australian College of Nursing, deborah-parker, kylie-ward, news-4, Professor John Pollaers, Regulation of the Unregulated Health Care Workforce across the health care system, royal commission into aged care quality and safety,

4 thoughts on “Renewed calls to regulate personal care workforce

  1. 100% agree with this recommendation. And the training should include dementia, medication assistance and challenging behaviours as core units.

  2. The two suggestions above from the ACN paper are probably the most effective ways of combating the current parlous state of residential aged care.

    In effect what they are saying is that we must professionalise the workforce.

    Currently we have a non-professional, un-organised, fragmented workforce that is essentially being exploited by government and society, being asked to do highly complex and sophisticated tasks.

    All governments have been loathed to professionalise aged care workers largely, I suspect, because once organised into and represented by a professional body they are likely to become less pliable and more politically active.

    The problem here lies not with providers but with the Australian community, and by extension the government. If you want best practice aged care then you are going to have to pay for it. Which means you are going to have to recompense providers equitably rather than the current situation which seems to be based on the government ripping as much money as they can out of the pockets of aged care providers – and then blaming them for problems with care.

    It may be true that the buck stops with the state, but before then it stops with society.

    Ask yourself. Who wants to pay more for aged care? No-one does. Yet we all expect the best. And therein lies the problem.

  3. My care worker experience influenced my Honours thesis to explore the devaluation and revaluation of care labour. That thesis holds as much value today as it did in 2006. I was introduced to the notion of doulia which Eva Feder Kittay espouses as public responsibility to provide support for the caregiver so that the caregiver can give care with depletion of one’s resources. She introduces us to the idea of reciprocity. While some might argue that caregivers (AINs, support workers, care workers) are paid, that value of labour continues to be denigrated in value and therefore pay. Who cares? Women are the face of care labour and increasingly women of colour.

    There’s an excellent campaign at the moment, Celebrating Women in Aged Care. Yes – we do need society, government and employers to recognise that without that frontline labour, we will have a care crisis. I often imagine a day when care workers are strong enough and unified enough to walk out on the job just to show the impact of their labour.

  4. I definitely agree on this that everyone who wants to work on this specific career should pass the minimum education and training required so that they can provide the best service for the elderly. They entrusted their loveones to aged care home/centres to get the utmost care that they deserve.

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