Industry split over carer licensing

Discussions about a licencing system for personal care workers have received a mixed reaction.

Industry leaders are divided over whether or not personal carers should be licensed.

Delegates at the TriState Conference in Albury were split when they took part in a ‘straw poll’ on professional regulation following a panel discussion on the topic.

The Federal Secretary of the Australian Nursing Federation, Ged Kearney presented a case for registering carers as a form of risk management.

“We believe that the risks you face every day as providers can be managed through a licensing system,” said Ms Kearney.

“These people are employed by you in the aged care sector but the question remains: who carries the risk?”

Ms Kearney argued that licensng for personal carers made sense in light of the changing nature of residential aged care.

“More and more residents are becoming more and more acute when they are admitted to care,” she said.

“Their needs continue to increase but more and more we are depending on unregistered workers.”

However industry sentiments were much harder to gauge.

The CEO of peak industry body Aged and Community Services Australia, Greg Mundy said his organisation had no fixed position on regulating carers.

“The key question is: ‘Do people want it’?” he said. “Is it something that people think should be explored when they add up the pluses and minuses. If so I think we should look into it further.”

Aged and Community Care Victoria’s Workforce and Aged Care Coordinator, David Amesbury urged caution in implementing a system of regulation.

Mr Amesbury was involved in the introduction of a licensing system for workers in Victoria’s children’s services industry and he said it was crucial to “get it right first time”.

“If you do go down that path it’s really important that you play a key role in developing the system, that you own the process and that you stay in control,” he said.

“It’s also really important to consider who will be the regulator of such a system. I would shudder if it would be another agency of [the Department of Health and Ageing].”

Mr Amesbury said an effective licensing system for carers would need to clearly outline standards, competencies and the scope of practice for personal care workers.

“One of the experiences I have had is that if you set the bar too high it will fail,” he said. “We need to  be very careful that we get that right.”

However one senior industry leader was critical of a licencing system.

The CEO of Aged and Community Services NSW & ACT, Jill Pretty said it was crucial not to equate quality with licensing.

“I would say that just about everyone in this room has a driving licence but the quality of driving in this country is questionable given the annual road toll statistics,” she said.

Ms Pretty suggested that the focus should instead be placed on greater regulation for the registered organisations that provide education and training to carers.

Some delegates felt a licensing system for carers would tie the industry to a medical model while others said registration would give more dignity and recognition to carers and older clients.

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