A group of unions representing aged care workers has released a four-point plan to improve the aged care system that includes mandated minimum staffing levels and training requirements and transparency with how providers spend that funding.

The campaign launched on Monday also calls for an increase in government funding for more staff, and largely has the support of provider groups.

It has been developed by the Health Services Union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, the United Workers Union and the Australian Council of Trade Unions to improve care outcomes and provide support for aged care workforce during the pandemic.

It aims to “fix our broken aged care system,” the unions said in a statement.

The campaign calls for:

  • mandated minimum staffing levels and required mix of skills and qualifications in every residential facility on every shift
  • transparency and accountability for Government funding
  • mandated training requirements accessible to all staff and paid by the employer
  • an increase in government funding linked to the provision of care and the direct employment of permanent staff with decent pay and enough hours to live on.
Annie Butler

ANMF federal secretary Annie Butler said understaffing in aged care has was widespread before COVID-19 and the aged care royal commission exposed it.

The pandemic has further demonstrated that mandating minimum staffing levels must be an urgent priority as part of any lasting reforms of the sector, she said.

“If that doesn’t happen, safe, quality care cannot be guaranteed and the pain and suffering of elderly Australians will go on,” Ms Butler said.

Gerard Hayes

HSU president Gerard Hayes said “a properly and transparently funded aged care sector will lead to better pay and conditions for all aged care workers – only this will ensure the high-quality care that all older Australians deserve.”

Carolyn Smith

UWU aged care director Carolyn Smith said “the aged care system desperately needs a fix in the form of increased, accountable funding for better staffing.”

ACTU president Michele O’Neil said “we need to ensure that one job is enough for any worker in aged care. Aged care workers having to work between multiple facilities has been a huge problem during the pandemic and must end.”

Peaks support unions’ plan

Leading Age Services Australia has long supported staffing increases, said CEO Sean Rooney. The challenge is the average aged care provider is struggling to cover their operating costs, he said.

Sean Rooney

“Significantly more funding is required to increase the numbers, remuneration and qualifications of staff,” Mr Rooney told Australian Ageing Agenda.

However, he reiterated LASA’s reservations about a one-size-fits-all staff-to-resident ratio because a number of factors influence the best number and mix of staff in aged care, including residents acuity and care needs and the facility’s care model.

“LASA believes that we should establish smart ratios that are case mix adjusted, aligned to care outcomes, linked to funding, and allow flexibility to adjust to local circumstances, on an if-not-why-not basis.

Patricia Sparrow

“That means if the provider’s staffing numbers and skills mix are not consistent with the agreed case mix requirements, then they must detail why not and what is the impact on the care outcomes delivered,” Mr Rooney said.

On funding transparency, Mr Rooney reiterated LASA’s position that Australia’s aged care system needs a nationally consistent approach to measuring performance at the resident and client, service and system levels.

Aged and Community Services Australia CEO Patricia Sparrow told AAA  “ACSA will work with any and all organisations, including the unions, to ensure the system is reformed and that aged care providers are able to provide the care the community expects and that we want to deliver.”

Victorian government announces aged care funding

On Tuesday, the Victorian state government announced a $30-million funding package to improve 50 state-owned residential aged care services.

Daniel Andrews

The package announced by Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews and ageing minister Luke Donnellan includes $20 million to upgrade 17 metropolitan and 16 regional residential aged care facilities.

Victoria’s state-owned facilities also receive additional funding from the state government to pay for set levels of staffing.

Mr Andrews said the funding would ensure older Victorians continue to receive the care they deserve.

“There is no more worthwhile investment – helping to rebuild our economy, while also ensuring the quality of care for thousands of older Victorians,” Mr Andrews said.

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Join the Conversation


  1. As the unions have driven out almost all manufacturing jobs in Australia the only industry owned by private companies is Aged Care.
    The unions have no interest in weather a increase in staffing numbers actually gives better care to aged care residents. All the unions want is more union memberships sold.
    Aged care is not a hospital. aged care receives 10% of the funding a Hospital receives. Aged care staffing ratios are based on the actual assessed care needs of a resident. The unions HATE that they want a set ratio of staff for every resident no matter what the assessed needs are for that resident.
    The unions already have aged care providers going broke by insisting on rigid rosters where staff have to be given six weeks notice prior to changing a roster. So if the occupancy of a aged care facility drops by 30% they are unable to adjust the roster for the number of residents in the facility.
    This union myth that care staff want to sit, chat and hold residents hands is totally untrue, as soon as the care staff have finished the cares for a resident they just go sit in the nurses station as far a way from the residents as possible.
    Are the unions going to get there members to actually work more than two shifts a week? I work with nursing staff that wont work more than two shifts a week as it will affect the amount of free welfare money they can claim from the government. A lot of aged care staff like the way the system is where they are paid welfare to do nothing and only have to come to work 12 hours a week. Change the abuse to the welfare system and there would be so many more people wanting to work in aged care.
    The unions expect the aged care provider to pay for the training of the aged care staff?? The unions truly have only one goal and that is to close down all non state government aged care providers. What other industry in Australia doesn’t expect for a person applying for a particular type of work to already have the relevant training and skills to do the job.
    Union madness. Just pure union greed chasing any way to achieve more membership fees. The unions have zero interest in the actual care given to our nations elderly.
    I work in aged care and see the difference between union nurses and non union nurses every day. The non union nurses care about nursing. The union nurses care about doing as little as possible.

  2. Fran, you sound silly. I don’t want to debate you because it would be like arguing with a piece of toast. Nothing you have said adds to the conversation of improving resident’s care or quality of life. I bet you didn’t even read the article.

    There is nothing outrageous about seeking transparency of tax dollars, allocating specific money to be spent on staffing, training of front line staff and increased funding. All of which the employers agree to as well. The discussion is on what these ratios will look like.

  3. Well said Fran, you have articulated the facts perfectly. Union membership has never been lower because they have chased the jobs overseas. The union should keep to their expertise and telling facilities who and how they employ… then pay for them to learn how to do the job?
    Residential care has ongoing training and education every week for all staff right now.
    As to the absolute nonsense on financial transparency… this is the mantra of the ignorant haters! The government receives independent audited accounts from every facility each October. If they want to share that with the public they are well able. The reason they don’t is because it would demonstrate the lack of funding to the system and make them the baddie rather than the Homes.
    Interesting for the public that Andrews confirmed that government homes already receive additional funding over private homes and now mire on top of more. Where is the level playing field and why is money the answer to government home issues but not to private facilities.
    Again, well said Fran… don’t think about the Ben’s of the world tapping away in the darkness of ignorance.

  4. I totally agree with Fran on the issue of welfare rorting, I have worked in aged care management and seen this in action,. You have shifts going begging and numerous staff not wanting to pick them up due to the risk of losing welfare money, and the shift runs short. I also feel strongly that if ratios are put in, then much higher funding from the taxpayer and consumer and great flexibility needs to be in place if numbers and acuity do go up and down, otherwise more providers will sell up and move on.

  5. I feel unions really are a thing of the past, especially when they carry on with sillyness which will only cause business to go out of business. You only need to look at the car manufacturing industry to see the damage that can be caused.

  6. I have worked as a nurse in aged care for many years. I agree with ANMF secretary Annie Butler, who said “understaffing in aged care was widespread before COVID-19 and the royal commission exposed it”.
    We, the members fully support the unions to, “fix our broken aged care system”.

  7. More staff for the residents Care . And pay rise for the worker Would be wonderful about time .let’s hope it happens soon

  8. Proud to not only be a very active member of my union but also a Delegate to it.We want to see transparency and accountability in Aged Care.
    I care about my residents this is why I am so involved in campaigning for improvements in the Aged Care sector.I would like to be able to spend more time with the residents.
    I do work more than two shifts .Union members do care about Nursing in Aged Care .

  9. Ratio of staff considering the two assist residents. And pay rise should be a big part of the discussion we get paid shit wages

  10. The Aged Care Act must be reformed.

    Currently, privately run RACFs are not required to be accountable for the $200 Billion annual Gov’t subsidies. So how much is spent on what?
    Bringing up welfare rorting here has got nothing to do with the reforms needed in Aged Care for the benefit of the elderly and the need for better employment conditions.

    It’s easy to read read between the lines when they come from economic rationalists

  11. I worked all my working life as a registered nurse over 40years until the state government in 1999 made so many of us redundant. From my experience Aged Care has reached a new low in the past 20 years, and for what appears to be inadequate care, using more taxpayers money. I am sure carer’s are doing the best they can but I feel there is a need for a better skill mix and a team effort. I have now reached old age myself, my husband has used residential respite in several facilities, and I would never agree to permanent care for him as he is too frail. As for respite, at the most recent episode I was amazed at the lack of respect I was shown by management. ( we don’t have enough means) I support unions in their vital role, I believe a proper staff ratio is essential, plus transparency as to what happens to the money.

  12. I have worked in home care (not residential) for the last 12 years. Many changes have occurred on the administration side that have not been improvements. Most of the changes have had negative impacts both on frontline staff and clients. Communication being the biggest problem.
    Corner cutting has created workloads that cannot be achieved with any job satisfaction. Too much on one when 2 people are needed to complete the work. Ratio’s may work, but only if it is realised on a baseline of what services are required by an individual. I am a union member and many questions put to them have been answered honestly and made positive changes to our frontline direct care staff.
    On the topic of training, anything that is relevant to your job is supposed to be paid by the company when in support/currency of your position. E.g:- first aid certificates, WWC’s, police checks etc., We pay for all but one of these requirements of the company.
    Rosters are accounted for in the award to be 2 weeks in front. Reality is they change for us on a daily basis (even on the same day).
    Fran we like our clients, most of us would like to sit and have a chat to ensure that we make the connection of care and trust. We usually leave with our clients smiling and they have had a good laugh. Please do not assume that your union and non-union people are the same everywhere.
    Anton please remember that all aged care facilities/providers are notified of when they are going to be audited. Easy to stack the deck?? I do agree with your position about the funding already being under prior to Covid19, similar to every other state. Supported by Maree in her comment.
    Emily I agree two staff to one resident needs to be accounted for, also the training that is needed if specialised equipment is used in the client’s home.
    Nancy we are finding the same disrespect in our own managerial system. Anyone on the lower ladder rungs suffer the consequences of having to squeeze what care we can into our work. Never enough time to travel from one client to the next (decreases service time) and always feeling rushed. Something we workers hate – to rush an elderly person. The inherent dangers that come with it ugh too scary to think about.

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