May 23, 2022

7 key takeaways from the election: What Labor’s win means for aged care

Labor win 6 key takeaways

Aged care was regularly noted as a key area of concern among voters, yet it received little air time from politicians or the media. 

The aged care crisis became personal in recent years, with the royal commission bringing the system’s failings into people’s living rooms on the nightly news.

Yet despite the Morrison government’s $18 billion reform package, we are still reading about care failures, low wages, workforce shortages, inedible meals and COVID outbreaks. 

To the public, the overriding impression is that nothing has improved in aged care and the government’s fixes are failing. 

Labor’s win suggests the electorate is looking for “caring” and “kindness” in their elected representatives, values Australia’s new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese spoke of in his acceptance speech.

These values are core to aged care and for too long have been overlooked.

With a Labor government in power, here are seven changes we can expect in the aged care sector.

1. Richard Colbeck is no longer the aged care minister

Colbeck was minister during the royal commission and has overseen the early stages of the subsequent reform.

However, the lack of visible improvements in aged care have angered many in the community, though within the sector many say the pace of reform has been too rapid.

Colbeck also came under pressure over a series of gaffes, such as not being able to say how many aged care residents had died from COVID.

It remains to be seen who Labor’s aged care minister will be, but Clare O’Neill was an effective Shadow Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services and would be the natural candidate for the role.

2. Aged care wages will rise

The new prime minister has committed to funding the Fair Work Commission’s recommendation arising from the union’s call for a 25% wage increase for aged care workers.

Higher wages for aged care workers was a key recommendation from the royal commission, yet none of the Morrison government’s $18 billion aged care package went to aged care workers.

The Labor government is set to change that.

3. Nurses will be on site in aged care homes 24/7

This will be in line with the royal commission’s recommendations. The LNP only committed to having an RN on site 16 hours per day.

4. Every aged care resident will receive 215 minutes of care per day

This is also in line with the royal commission’s recommendation. The LNP only committed to 200 minutes of care per day.

5. Increased workforce

The Labor government has admitted it may need to source new aged care workers from overseas to address workforce shortages, at least as a “stopgap” measure.

However, the new government has also promised to train new aged care workers.

6. Mandatory nutrition standards will be introduced in aged care homes

Since the royal commission found that up to 68% of aged care residents are malnourished or at risk of malnourishment, food has been a key focus of reform.

The $10 Basic Daily Fee Supplement was intended to improve food and nutrition in aged care, but the increased spending has, on the whole, done little to improve food quality.

Spending on meal raw materials has only increased marginally and the media continues to report on residents receiving low quality, unappetising meals.

With no transparency into how the supplement is being spent, there is speculation the supplement has simply been funnelled to cover costs elsewhere. Which brings us to our final point…

7. Aged care providers will be required to report on how they spend taxpayer dollars

Currently, the public can not tell how much government funding is being spent on care and services, and how much is going towards profits and waste.

Labor has promised to improve the reporting requirements for aged care funding.

Further promises

Labor has also committed to establishing a registration scheme for personal care workers, including requirements for ongoing training, criminal history screening and English proficiency. 

With many aged care workers employed in insecure roles, Labor has also promised to ensure workers employed through labour hire do not receive less pay than workers employed directly.

It will implement a Secure Australian Jobs Code to provide guidelines for working conditions and wages, and develop portable entitlement schemes for Australians in insecure jobs.

Dr Elizabeth Shi, Senior Lecturer at the Graduate School of Business and Law at RMIT, says Labor’s commitments will “improve employment security and conditions for the aged care workforce”.

 

How do you feel about the new change in government? Share your thoughts below. 

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  1. Providers and transparency is an overused distraction.
    Every facility has to supply independently audited accounts to the government by October every year.
    That audit clearly shows how every dollar is spent by every nursing home. These audits are sent to the government body ACFA (aged care funding authority) and distributed to the relevant ministers etc.

    So why haven’t the liberals made that information available to the public? Why have they rabbited on about the lack of transparency?
    The reason for the ongoing deception from the government is if they had made the audited accounts available to the public then all would know that nursing homes are running at a loss, spending more on care than funding allows. If they had told the truth people would have directed their anger at the government rather than facilities.

  2. Seeing is believing. I am a retired R.N. but worked in Aged Care for many years. So many governments over the years have had opportunities to ‘fix’ aged care and any changes have only been ‘band aides.’ Hence we now have reached a crisis point in aged care in all areas.

  3. i n worked with Mark Butler before when he was Minister responsible for aged care. If he gets Minister for Health/Ageing I will have hoppe.

  4. The Liberal Party are a case study in how to alienate people and not get elected. I hope that Dutton becomes their new leader because his wacky right wing views will keep all of them in electoral oblivion for years. Almost everyone loves their Mum. Only a fool would not respect this relationship. Hopefully the ALP will now roll out all the recommendations from the Royal Commission.

  5. Please describe to me what 215 minutes of care contains….does that mean 3 and 1/2 hours spent each day personally and physically companionable with another human being ? Or does it mean mainly someone focussed on paperwork, documentation for that time?

  6. I am involved in a small rural aged care facility and it has cost a significant amount to continually advertise for an RN. I have no idea where we will be able to recruit 24/7 coverage! Agency RNs (when we can get them) have a serious impact on an already struggling budget. I hope the new Government will help!

  7. Good that Labour has aged care on its agenda. However a few comments:
    1. Point 3 about RNs 24 a day is a bit of a misnomer and was used as a political ploy as 85% of homes have this now. Regional homes will not be able to meet this as our small regional home has been unable to attract RNS for PM of night shift for the past 8 years.
    2. The industry accepts the new funding model and the associated 200 minutes of care. However, it will be difficult to find staff to meet the 200 mins as providers are struggling to fill shifts now. Labour’s commitment to 215 merely brings it forward by a year from what the Liberals had. However, where will any of us get staff for the extra 15 minutes?
    3. We need to remove the fallacy that 68% of residents are malnourished as this is simply not true. A flawed study that does not accord with reality.
    4. The $10 per day was for more than food as the Government has given a miserly 1.6% annual increase for the past 2-3 years and our costs have risen far higher, hence why more providers are losing money.

    1. Well said David. Lots to be done but at least we won’t have the liberals denying the damage they have done to the sector. Labor will be able to highlight the cuts to ACFI, subsidy reductions, payroll tax implications and of course the denied CPI increases that has decimated the sector.

  8. I look forward to the greater presence of Registered Nurses in care homes, and the increased duration of care being increased to 215 minutes per day.

    I recall a UK studies showing that residents, on average, have less than 5 minutes of conversation per day! This clearly has an impact on mental health, depression risk and dementia.
    Thankfully, we’re already seeing an increased take-up of seniors videophones and other video-calling technologies (like the Konnekt, the Independa and the Gabriel) to enable memory-challenged residents to stay in touch with family and friends.

    The Lifestyle Activities Managers are often the heart and soul of nursing homes; they care for the emotional and social needs of residents, and support mental health with a range of activities and outings. Increased funding should enable Lifestyle Coordinators to further improve their services, and bring a smile to residents and their families!

  9. We need to set realistic time frames. The Titanic cannot turn on a sixpence. At least, with no Colbeck, it may be possible to set quality foundations.

    It is essential to get consumer input into accreditation in a safe anonymous way. I designed such a tool and it was scrapped

  10. The not for profit nursing homes allow the workers to salary sacrifice = less yax paid. Whereas the workers that work for a company as a nursing home do not get this = less wage rate and less workers

  11. Cannot say how I feel as it’s too early to comment.. The $10 per day for meals has never been visible, Aged Care homes should be investigated as to where all this money has gone.. Definitely no changes in the meals???

  12. Well I just hope they actually do the improvements.
    Any can’t employees work in the same facility instead of doing multiple shifts in different places. It makes no sense to me. They should have a secure permanent job. Not casual.

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