One in two staff set to quit sector

Half of Australia’s aged care workforce intends to leave the industry, a survey has found.

Half of Australia’s aged care workforce intends to leave the industry, according to a survey.

The findings – commissioned by aged care consultants CompliSpace – feature in the third annual Aged Care Workforce Report, which shows up to 139,000 residential aged care workers are planning to leave the sector in the next three years due to low pay and overwork – including 64,000 people within the next 12 months.  

Source: CompliSpace

The survey also shows staff are sceptical that the Albanese Government can deliver its ambitious reform agenda.

Having recently passed a suite of legislative measures, the government has pledged to introduce more laws into parliament later this year to improve the quality of care for older Australians.

This includes a mandatory 200-minutes personalised care per resident per day from October next year, rising to 215 minutes in 2024.

However, 57 per cent of Australia’s aged care workers – 159,000 people – think the targets will be impossible to reach in the required timeframe. Furthermore, a majority of workers (79 per cent) have no confidence that the reforms will improve outcomes for residents.

And while the government has committed to funding a 25 per cent wage increase if approved by the Fair Work Commission – expected to report later this year, or early 2023 – almost half of the aged care workforce (47 per cent) believes that a pay rise of more than that amount is needed if workers are to remain in the industry.

A first step

Asked in the light of the findings whether the government needs to recalibrate its reform targets, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said: “These aren’t my targets. These are the recommendations of the royal commission. And the aged care royal commission indicated what was necessary. It’s not surprising at all that aged care workers who are under enormous pressure – and have been so for a long period of time – are concerned. We know that was documented, well documented, by the royal commission.”

As for addressing staff shortages, the PM said the first thing to do is to stop people leaving the sector. “And a government that is concerned to actually lift up aged care and to lift up the care that’s given to our older Australians, to allow them to live with the dignity and respect that they deserve, is a first step,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Melbourne this week. “Because we know that people were leaving the industry. And the advice there is that if you move to a better system, then that will help to alleviate the shortages which are there.”

“We need a plan for the immediate short term.”

Responding to the report’s findings, general manager of policy and advocacy at the Aged & Community Care Providers Association Tim Hicks said the survey reinforces what its members are saying about the pressure the aged care system is under.

Tim Hicks

“We have recently taken some important steps forward with the passage of legislation on independent pricing and a clear commitment to fund pay increases, and the broader commitment to increase care minutes,” Mr Hicks said. “However, the estimated billion-dollar deficit in residential care funding for 2021-22, and the cost of managing the pandemic is placing enormous pressure on staff at all levels.”

Finding workers to meet the new staffing targets to provide for the required 45 per cent increase in minutes of care by a registered nurse is going to be impossible for many services, said Mr Hicks.

“We need a plan for the immediate short term that recognises many providers will fall short of this target even if all reasonable steps are taken. We don’t want managers fearing that they will be punished because the staff they need just aren’t there.”

While the sector must not back away from recruiting more staff, Mr Hicks said it needed a “practical and realistic plan” to get there – one that avoids adding to the challenges that workers are already facing.

Any workforce plan for aged care also needs to address home care, added Mr Hicks “where new clients are already being turned away because the providers cannot find enough staff.”

Among the survey’s other key findings:

  • 45 per cent of workers have lost half or more of their management team in the last 12 months. This includes 11 per cent of workers who have lost their entire management team within the last year
  • 78 per cent include stress in their top three reasons for leaving
  • 89 per cent ranked relationships with residents and families in their top three reasons for staying
  • 90 per cent of aged care workers say the addition of new staff over the next 12 months would be “very beneficial”
  • 84 per cent of workers anticipate the aged care homes they work for will need to make major changes to systems and processes to cope with regulatory changes
  • 38 per cent of aged care workers describe new staff as unprepared and in need of extra training or supervision to prevent risk to residents.

Meanwhile, in a state-by-state breakdown, it was found that:

  • Tasmanians are the most sceptical about the government’s aged care agenda, with almost half (46 per cent) convinced that the reforms recommended by the royal commission will never happen
  • 65 per cent of Victorian aged care workers are convinced the proposed mandatory 215 minutes care time per resident per day is impossible to achieve
  • 59 per cent of workers in Tasmania have lost half or more of their management team in the last year, including 17 per cent who have lost their entire management team.

The report concludes: “Despite their tireless efforts, workers cannot provide aged care residents with the quality of care they need and deserve. There are simply not enough staff. Many fear that the situation will only worsen, with low pay driving existing workers out of the industry while making it unattractive to potential new workers, particularly in the face of the rising cost of living and low unemployment.”

David Griffths

CompliSpace CEO David Griffiths said while the government was doing its best to solve the challenges facing the aged care sector, any new regulations needed to be supported by corresponding funding or they would fail.

“Without intervention, the residential aged care industry will be drastically understaffed within the next three years, exacerbating an already fragile framework of quality service delivery,” said Mr Griffiths. “Residents will not get the care that workers want to give them and the care that government has legislated.”

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Tags: ACCPA, anthony albanese, CompliSpace, featured, Tim Hicks,

3 thoughts on “One in two staff set to quit sector

  1. I have just retired from working in Aged Care. To encourage quality, professional and skilled staff the sector needs to be seen by all as highly regarded and important, which it is not. I can’t tell you how many times when I told someone I worked in aged care, I felt almost totally dismissed as doing a lowly job! It used to be that if you couldn’t get the job you wanted, ‘well I can always get a job in aged care’ which was and is still true! A bit the same for Childcare and Disability workers. I don’t have the answers, but increased staff numbers and remuneration equal to the work done is a start. Aged care staff literally have precious lives in their hands. I remember driving the bus for an outing with 10 residents on board thinking of the responsibility I had in my hands and then realized what a co worker meant when she said ‘I won’t drive the bus, I don’t get paid enough for that huge responsibility’.
    I wish all current workers well and those considering joining the sector to please do, and fight for a better future for themselves and the residents.

  2. And sadly, the overworked, underpaid staff in aged care will now as of last Friday have to do without physio and allied health support as well! On September 30th 5000 physios and unknown numbers of other allied health professionals lost their jobs, with major providers cutting on average at least 50% of their allied health workforce. This is a tragedy as we have now lost a generation of talented allied health professionals who may never return to look after vulnerable older people who need us and will in the future as well. Physio alone has been shown to decrease falls 55%. Not having allied health in nursing homes adds more load and cost to the entire health system having to manage without us falls, pain, poor mobility, side effects of medications and preventable hospital admissions and deaths. We all as taxpayers will now end up paying for that.

    This allied health heist occurred in plan site, despite what the Department of Health have said for 2 years and 2 governments that providers are expected to still fund allied health from their ANACC funding. Providers are losing $2.1 million a year on average, and yet the Department of Health said on June 17th 2022 that providers need to fund themselves from October 1st AT LEAST 8 minutes a resident a day, around 4% of spend from an AHPRA registered university educated allied health professional. In June 2022, as Department of Health were told, these allied health levels had fallen to 1.73 minutes a resident a day (Mirus Australia). This is less than 20% of the 8 minutes a day that the Royal Commission said in 2020 was inadequate and that significantly more was needed in recommendation 38. The then Morrison government accepted this recommendation. However both sides of government supported the reform bills responding to these recommendations without passing and requirement or funding for allied health levels.

    My company AAC Health group, the ACCPA, and allied health groups have been warning about what will happen if allied health levels aren’t mandated and funded for over a year. AAC’s stop the #deathofalliedhealth campaign submitted a petition to the Senate on March 29th which 20,000 people signed, supported by Danny Green, David Campese and Tracey Spicer. I’ve yet to meet a single person in nursing homes, or outside them, who doesn’t think physio and allied health are needed for older people in nursing homes, and yet the levels of allied health have now dropped off a cliff.

    If the Prime Minister and his government are serious about keeping staff in aged care as the priority, they need to urgently address the allied health crisis with a realistic and practical solution. We urgently need both sides of politics to mandate a minimum level of allied health that nursing homes need to provide and pay for things like regular pain and mobility assessments, falls reviews, and rehabilitation post hospital. We don’t need to be doing massages! And AHAs and others can do exercises as well if properly supervised. But there is a huge risk to vulnerable elders, as I mentioned at the Senate in evidence on August 25th, if unqualified staff acting outside their scope of practice are not properly and directly supervised onsite.

    We need urgent bipartisan action NOW to have any chance of allied health staying and returning to aged care. It may already be too late, but we need to try. Our mums, dads and friends in nursing homes who paid taxes all their lives and built our society, deserve far, far better than this.

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