Mar 31, 2022

97% of aged care staff have still not received $800 bonus

ACWs not received $800 bonus

An already rundown aged care workforce has had to contend with lengthy delays in receiving the Morrison government’s promised $800 bonus. The Guardian reports that a recent survey found that an unbelievably small number of workers had received the payment – a total of just 3%. 

Only two months ago, the federal government broadcast it would provide 265,000 aged care personnel a total of $800, across two instalments of $400, prior to the election. 

The bonus provisions were constructed to allay worries surrounding underpayment, high worker turnaround and the government’s response to the pandemic.

However, the fine print of how the funding was initially to get to workers has been subject to much criticism. 

Providers were instructed to apply on March 1 for eligible workers that had been active in the sector as of 28 February. 

The sticking point for many providers and staff was that the government then asked providers to fork over the bonus to workers, prior to applications being approved and finalised by the government. 

The United Workers Union (UWU) ran a recent survey of 1,000 aged care workers, finding that 97% had not seen a dime of the bonus money, with over 75% saying they had not even been made aware of any information pertaining to the bonus. 

The UWU has conveyed that the surveyed personnel also were vocal with their anger over the payments, initially promised by the government to be a streamlined bonus, but now being snagged in seemingly endless bureaucratic hoops.

The results from the survey have been broadcast as aged care personnel across the nation begin their first moves to industrial action, with numerous applications being lodged with the Fair Work Commission (FWC). 

The UWU assesses these applications to derive from a significant number of facilities covering over 13,000 workers.

Continuing, “Aged care workers haven’t been fooled – this bonus doesn’t even touch the sides [of] the chronic understaffing, the outrageous workloads and the lack of time to care that existed even before COVID.”

The government’s formal instructions to aged care providers has sparked much aghast confusion. 

With asking providers to fund the bonuses to workers at the time of lodgement, prior to government approval and funding processing, is essentially to ask a worryingly underfunded sector to front money they may not have in the first place, without even the stability of an approved claim by the government.

As of last week, the government announced it had received a total of 322 applications, the entirety of which are yet to be assessed. 

The government expected to receive 1,650 by the time of application deadline in mid-April, an unlikely scenario with just two weeks left. Applications for the aged care bonus payment close at 2pm on 15 April 2022.

A spokesperson speaking on behalf of Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck noted that as of Thursday the application number received had risen to 650.

The spokesperson commented, “Allocations of bonus payments to aged care workers is on schedule.”

The Health Services Union (HSU) noted the government had clearly and frequently been warned about highly likely issues creating obstacles in accessing the scheme – a monumental one being providers struggling with funding already and paying workers prior to receiving approval of the government handout. 

Gerard Hayes, HSU secretary, outlined, “The for-profits, there’s not many of them, I can see they might dip into their profit margin.” 

He added, “But the not-for-profits, I’ve got no idea where they would get the money to facilitate this.” 

Word from Mr Colbeck’s office assesses the program to be “demand-driven” and providers had been clearly led to fund the workers at the time applications were submitted for the bonus from March 1. 

His office also conveyed that some providers had been submitting applications improperly.

A spokesperson noted, “The department is working closely with providers where applications have been completed incorrectly.” 

The continued, “Staff are encouraged to talk to their employer and seek the information that has been provided to them through peak aged care organisations and unions.” 

After an immensely hard time for many aged care workers – and the sector at large – over the course of the pandemic and with many more months to come, it can only be hoped that bureaucratic procedures are streamlined and a burnt out industry is listened to and supported further. 

Have you received your $800 bonus payment? Tell us in the comments section. 

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