Saturday 3rd September 2011
The Productivity Commission’s report into aged care recognises the need to fix workforce issues in the sector – but not in a timely manner.
Members’ hard work in the Because we care campaign has resulted in aged care being elevated to a national priority, with the Productivity Commission’s report acknowledging the need to fix the wages gap and improve staffing and skill mix in the sector.
The report, entitled Caring for Older Australians, was released on 8 August. It recognises that working in aged care is labour intensive, the demand for aged care workers is high, there are problems attracting and retaining workers, and that nurses working in the sector are paid significantly less than nurses in the public system and that the gap has been widening.
It also acknowledged that a comprehensive workforce strategy needs to be developed, along with the payment of fair and competitive wages, and that developing career paths and improving access to education and training were key issues that need to be addressed.
However, the NSWNA is disappointed with the timeframe proposed by the report to fix wages and staffing issues. The Commission has recommended the establishment of an Australian Aged Care Commission that would be responsible for quality and accreditation, including assessing the cost of care and establishing transparency of pricing. This would include a role in how care is delivered in terms of wages, skill mix and staffing levels. But if such a body is established, the timeframe provided is within the next three to five years.
NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes said aged care cannot wait that long. ‘We are not happy with the timeframe the report puts on addressing the wages gap, but we’ve had great success in getting workforce issues and wages on the agenda, and there’s been an acknowledgement that wages and staffing are key issues that need to be addressed,’ said Brett. ‘Our next step is to make sure they are dealt with more quickly.’
Although there is no recommendation in support of regulation or licensing for AiNs, the report does acknowledge a need to review the vocational education training system to improve consistency and ensure training providers are meeting standards. There are recommendations to expand the number of accredited aged care courses at all vocational and tertiary levels, and to establish ‘teaching aged care services’.
Other areas covered by the report include reducing the Department of Health and Ageing to a policy advisory body, extensive changes to the Aged Care Complaints system, more avenues for consumer consultation and input, increased and more transparent financial reporting activity in the industry, incentives for GPs to attend aged care homes, and better funding for palliative services in residential care. The Association also played a part in ensuring that the needs of older gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people were included in the report.
‘The NSWNA supports the overall direction of the reforms that aim to keep people in their homes for as long as possible with care being brought to them,’ said Brett.
Download the report at www.pc.gov.au/projects/inquiry/aged-care/report.