“Waiting for a response”: AACC push on Frank Price’s workforce measures yet to find traction with Fed Govt

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Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Services Senator Richard Colbeck says Australia’s border re-opening will ease aged care workforce pressures – as the Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC) says it has yet to receive a response from the Federal Government a fortnight after requesting urgent action on the sector’s workforce crisis.

As we reported here, the AACC’s six peak bodies – Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA), Anglicare Australia, Baptist Care Australia, Catholic Health Australia, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) and UnitingCare Australia – wrote to Health and Aged Care Minister Greg Hunt and Minister Colbeck two weeks ago urging action on workforce shortages.

The letter followed an earlier series of letters from 13 providers, led by RFBI CEO Frank Price, which proposed a suite of solutions to fix short- and long-term staffing gaps in the sector.

Short- and long-term solutions

The AACC and the group of providers led by RFBI want the Government to:

  1. Support aged care providers to pay a competitive wage by formally agreeing to fund the outcome of the Fair Work Commission Work Value Case
  2. Incentivise nursing students to work in aged care.
  3. Incentivise prospective care and support workers.
  4. Implement a plan for foreign workers to fill vacancies on a short and long-term basis where a local workforce is not available
  5. In conjunction with State and Territory Education Departments, develop a VET pathway program for secondary school students into aged care, with a particular focus on a pathway into home care.
  6. Offer enrolled nurses subsidies to upskill as registered nurses.

Govt says border re-opening will ease workforce pressures

The Minister has indicated however that the Government believes the situation will improve.

“The Morrison Government recognises the additional pressures on staffing across the health and aged care sector, and communicates weekly with stakeholders as we navigate the ongoing impact of the pandemic and its impact on the sector,” said Minister Colbeck in a statement.

“We are confident that as vaccination rates continue to rise and borders reopen, the acute pressures on the aged care staffing will ease.”

The Minister noted that the Government has already taken a number of steps to strengthen the aged care workforce, including:

  • Easing visa restrictions to allow international students on temporary visas to work over 40 hours per fortnight for aged care providers; and
  • Supporting 67 workers to enter Australia to work for aged care providers in the Northern Territory and Queensland under the Pacific Labour Scheme in the last month.

The Minister also cited the 2020 Aged Care Workforce Census, released September 2021, which showed an increase in the number of direct carers working across the industry since 2016.

Frank Price: we need goodwill from Government

RFBI CEO Frank Price (pictured) says the measures won’t assist in the immediate future however – and more assistance is needed to help providers grow the workforce, initially through migration and then locally.

“We need the goodwill of all parties to make it work,” he said. “At this stage, the only people that have the goodwill are the operators.”

Frank points out that the increase in wages is the only measure that will have a significant impact on the Government hip pocket.

“These much-maligned aged care workers are the ones that have been carrying this themselves with their own hip pocket forever,” he concluded.

“They have subsidised the Government long enough. I think it’s time the Government pays them or through us, pays them what they are worth – we just need goodwill from the different players.”

Will the Government come to the table?

Read the full story in the ‘Viability’ issue of SATURDAY, in your inbox at 6am, Saturday, 4 December. Subscribe here.

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