Nov 10, 2021

Aged care lobby groups call for more overseas workers to fill staffing shortages

Aged care lobby groups call for more overseas workers to fill staffing shortages

The Australian Aged Care Collaboration has written to Health Minister Greg Hunt and Minister of Aged Care Services Richard Colbeck asking for the creation of a special visa that would place aged care workers on the skilled occupations list and allow them to bypass current migration restrictions.

“We need the barriers to migration to be lifted,” Aged and Community Services Australia Chief Executive Paul Sadler, who co-signed the letter, told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

“We’re really struggling to find enough staff to keep the doors open,” he said.

Leading Age Services Australia Chief Executive Sean Rooney echoed Mr Sadler’s sentiments, stating that a migration program specific to aged care would “enable us to recruit suitably skilled and qualified people”.

A Band-Aid solution? 

Staffing shortages have been a longstanding problem in the aged care sector, which experts believe is a result of low wages and poor training.

Evidence of frustration by existing aged care staff has been highlighted on the Aged Care Watch website that has received over 4,000 anonymous reports of unfilled shifts and understaffing at Australian aged care facilities in only four months. 

National President of the Health Service Union Gerard Hayes told reporters that continued reporting of “extreme” staffing shortages had done nothing to improve conditions for their members.

“We still don’t have a sustainable funding or staffing fix that lifts this industry out of crisis … Providers are more interested in importing workers on temporary visas than lifting wages,” said Mr Hayes.

Professor Eager also named “poor pay and conditions” as the main reason for the aged care sector’s high turnover rate and inability to attract sufficient staff. 

Recently, Minister of Aged Care Services Richard Colbeck said that the federal government “recognises the additional pressures on staffing across the health and aged care sector,” but believes that pressures will ease with higher vaccination rates and border openings.

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  1. We should be paid alot more, Personal Care workers in Aged care deserve what hospital workers receive. We are losing alot of great workers to the hospitals. Our lovely residents are the ones that are going to suffer, breaks my heart when a great worker leaves. Especially when good staff work in a memory support unit they get spat on, scratched, screamed at, punched. The facility I work at is currently sponsoring overseas workers they are unskilled we are trying to train them while being short staffed. Also very hard with language barriers. Old saying is pay peanuts you get monkeys. Put wages up and you wouldn’t have to look overseas. People want to take care of our elderly. I for one get up every day knowing I’m going to do the best I can. As a residents wife once said to us We have been chosen by God to be his Angels to take care of the elderly.

    1. Make the salary higher and maybe Australian citizens and residents would take the job.
      I know first hand about staff shortages and choosing staff that aren’t a good fit for the job and they will do… I have 2 parents in a nursing home.
      I am always complaining about service.attention hygiene etc.

    2. Beautiful said and so true. Good on you for sticking it out in an industry that will never value the workers. And by saying that when a company values and nurtures their workers they most often pay them better and certainly not rip them off financially including mandatory training and courses done in your own time, overtime. An industry that should never have been privatized like so many other industries in this country!

  2. This should not be allowed to happen. Employers are churning and burning workers on short term, multi-site contracts. This is a miserable existence for these workers and not surprisingly many leave this work as soon as they can. The focus of Aged Care needs to be what is best for patients and residents. If you want safe care you have to provide safe work. Safe work means safe workloads and secure contracts that pay a liveable wage. Aged Care is caught in a race to the bottom (literally). Morrison has not provided enough money to improve care and now it is like the Wild West with no Sheriff. We need to stop listening to the Cowboys in this industry and instead focus on patients/residents. The corporate chains who accept public money with one hand and ration care with the other should also be forced to provide more information on where this money goes because it sure as hell is not being spent on staffing.

  3. If the industry was better funded and workers had pay commensurate with the work they do then this would be totally unnecessary. If we import labour to work at low rates of pay we continue the disgraceful situation we currently have.

  4. Indonesia believe that is the real issue. Nothing has changed. We have certain cultures that take weeks off to celebrate festivals up to 3btimes a year leaving us up to 7 staff short a day. We were 3bshort a few weeks back on the poor night shift and nobody got a break and to put salt into the wound We weren’t paid. The reason we are short has nothing from my yrs of experience to do with covid. We cannot keep staff longer than up to 12 mths and new staff leave almost as soon as they start due to the workloads. The other issue is the company keeps cutting staff hrs and they need to find other jobs to make a living. Staff that are asked to stay back often don’t get paid and if you have a single sick day off they ask for a doctor’s certificate. Even though in their own enterprise bargaining agreement you don’t need a certificate for one day. I hope some of these places get thrown to the wolves especially the ones where there is an investigation into money not being paid to staff over several years. Most foreign workers don’t complain and alot leave eventually. So please don’t think we will have more staff just because the international borders open. This stealing of staff’s wages has been going on since day dot!

  5. The Federal Government fails to understand the core issues around staffing. The staff shortages being experienced by the Aged Care Sector will not ease as vaccination rates increase. There is no one solution to alleviate the staff shortages, however, a combination of higher rates of pay and freeing up overseas opportunities will make a difference.

    The regulatory compliance requirements are continually increasing, this, along with the increased pressures within the sector, the high demands on carers, do not justify the low rates of pay the sector offers.

  6. On the 20th September, a group of 13 aged care providers wrote to Minister Colbeck specifically to address the workforce challenges that we are facing. A smaller group of providers then met with the Minister on 8th October to discuss these ideas. We are now in November and we are still waiting for a response. The Collaboration took many of our recommendations to the Minister hoping to receive a better hearing – but to no avail. To say that i am frustrated by the lack of priority given to older Australians or the people providing the care does not do justice. One day these very same Ministers will need to be cared – then what?

    Below is an excerpt of the first letter – you will see that international workforce was last on the list and paying our workers a competitive wage was the first item on the list.

    What the Government must do:

    What is needed is to create a pipeline of workers by:
    – Paying a competitive wage

    – Incentivising nursing students:
    o To undertake a nursing degree by subsidising university fees;
    o Requiring graduating nurses to complete a period of time at an aged care facility prior to gaining their qualifications;
    o Creating incentives for registered nurses to work in regional and rural areas where there are so few nurses. This should include, but not limited to, tax incentives;

    – Incentivising prospective carers and support workers:
    o Have a re-skilling program for people in other sectors who are unemployed because of COVID who may come across to aged care.
    o Redesigning the right training with credentials that are recognised and allow for career progression;
    o Incentivising older students and school leavers to become aged care workers. Incentives could include: improved financial conditions, training, paid reeducation fees;

    – Investment in automation and robotics, similar to the advancements shown in aged care in Japan, to supplement frontline care demands,

    – Have a plan for foreign workers to supplement the void on a short and long term basis depending on demand:
    o Including skilled occupations for aged care workers (ANZSCO Unit Codes 4231 and 4233) on the Immigration Skilled Occupation List Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL).
    o Learn from what is happening in the UK:
    § They introduced the Health and Care Visa in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This visa covers senior care workers and nursing auxiliaries and assistants. It is a streamlined visa including long term sponsorship, salary and English language concessions
    § They have a streamlined pathway for foreign nurses – Applicants receive what is essentially a provisional registration as registered nurses and be able to practice and be sponsored as registered nurses.
    § The job and sponsorship are provided to the foreign nurses even before they arrive in the UK.
    § As a result, a large number of foreign nurses are choosing to migrate to the UK.
    o Remove the restrictions on aged care providers, in line with what is already in place in the Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA), which in NSW currently only applies to the Orana region;
    o Establish pathways to Permanent Residency (include partners);
    o Provide exemption, reduction, or simplification of the Skilling Australian Fund (SAF) levy;
    o Provide visa concessions for Regional Australia
    o Reduce/remove the VISA application fee for aged care providers in regional Australia

  7. Definitely a better pay is necessary. A better work to resident ratio is vital as well.
    I believe there are too many overseas workers. As wonderful as some are, when there are 90% of staff from other countries it can be intimidating. Language issues, the few Australians feeling isolated, high turnover rates and high sick leave are some of the issues.
    A good spread of Australians and overseas workers would work so much better. Many are students, so shifts are left vacant often.
    I believe we need to attract those that care about the elderly, have a vocation and can see a great, caring career in front of them. Better pay and conditions would encourage that.

  8. I am an aged care RN. Who has been here 15 years on a sponsorship visa. I have not been able to get any assistance to get my permanent residency due to being over 50. I am now putting paperwork together to plea to Immigration to allow me to have my PR. I am an experienced Aged Care nurse which is what is lacking in this industry. The only resumes we get at my facility are new grads and even just recently these have depleted , who yes are keen but after a year of gaining experience they move on, don’t get me wrong I don’t blame them for exploring and finding their niche in another field. On the other side over the years we have overseas nurses who get the job for their visa then again after the year get Permanent Residency in their own right and again off they go. I good be wrong, but have seen a lot over the years I feel we are A stepping stone.

    I have mentored them passed on my experience and knowledge onto them for someone else to benefit by it.

    Here I am as I say 15 years down the track with 30 years experience in Aged care, on a sponsorship which is about to run out desperate to become permanent.

    I think you will find this is why Aged Care is struggling for staff. Yes we are not paid as much as acute care, and I would like to see us recognised like the angels in acute care but Aged Care is my passion so the joy I get from my job is reward enough.

  9. I think this is an excellent idea to have skilled workers in the Aged care sector but I do have an issue with the language barrier with our aged residents.
    The majority of our residents are hearing impaired and struggle with unclear directives from a worker with a strong accent or limited English.
    This causes frustration by both parties which can lead to ongoing issues and even conflict.
    As our population is living longer, we need to look at the best possible care moving forward.
    I think the wages should reflect the time and care and emotions that is put into place by our support workers.

  10. We need more proper training with proper wages and recognition for aged care staff as per the commission recommendations
    Importing staff causes confusion due to language barries and cultural differences
    This is only a quick fix

  11. Australia DOES NOT NEED overseas aged care workers There are enough if not too many here already In my 15 years in this career I refuse to work in a facility as these people have a different work ethic with lower levels of empathy and compassion.Abuse never used to happen years ago..If this pathetic covid rubbish would end perhaps the really trained doctors ..nurses ..carers could have their jobs back .Vaxed or unvaxed ..it doesnt matter The vaxed are so ill in Melbourne .If you think the unvaxed are the spreaders think again.The hospitals are over run by vaxed injuries but are not telling u..
    Australia is not Australia anymore.We are not looked after. Foreigners are taking over.as its a privellage to be in this country so they will do anything the government says.

    I do not support this one bit

    Thankyou

  12. We certainly do not need more overseas workers in Aged Care until we are able to get the ones that we already have educated. They need to be able to speak English to a standard that an elder can understand what is being said.
    Better still offer better pay and working conditions and many who have left might be inclined to come back.

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