Aged care staff have aired their frustrations on HelloCare’s pages over the government’s bungled handling of the aged care worker retention bonus.
Earlier this week, the federal government announced a third retention bonus for aged care workers, but HelloCare has received hundreds, if not thousands, of comments expressing frustrations over the government’s poor delivery of the payment.
Some complain they are entitled to the bonus but have not received the payments yet. It remains unclear why this might be so.
Many have commented the payments are so small by the time tax is taken out, they are almost insignificant and only serve to disappoint. The bonus was initially announced as tax free, and the government’s decision to reverse that decision has left many fuming.
Many claim the bonus is unfair because so many staff – including those in laundry, kitchen, cleaning, recreational activities, diversional therapy, allied health and administration – do not qualify to receive it.
These workers are also risking their health and that of their families by going to work every day, and without them aged care facilities would grind to a halt. Even at the best of times these workers are essential, but particularly so during the pandemic.
According to comments on HelloCare’s pages, the aged care retention bonus is making many aged care workers feel excluded, undervalued, unappreciated – and they’re angry.
Aged care workers are still turning up to work every day (unless they have been directed not to do so due to COVID-19, or if they are unwell).
Of course, the carers who receive the bonus are there to care for residents. But the other staff who don’t receive the bonus are just as essential in aged care during the pandemic.
Kitchen staff are essential for keeping residents well and strong so they can fight infection. Cleaners are keeping aged care facilities free of germs. Laundry staff help to keep the environment clean too, and clothes and linen free of infection. And administration staff are busier than ever, coping with the additional demands of visitor restrictions and an increase in in-house activities.
Just like the direct care workers who do receive the bonus, these staff are living with the stresses of COVID-19 in aged care every day.
And yet the government chose to ignore them.
It appears that some aged care providers have taken it upon themselves to ensure all staff receive a bonus, and the recipients of these payments have expressed their gratitude on HelloCare’s pages.
The carers who have received the bonus are not ungrateful and many have noted the payment is appreciated, and certainly better than nothing.
The payment that was intended to reward aged care staff during the pandemic and preserve the workforce has become a policy that has driven division and disappointment among the very people it was designed to help.
Instead of making aged care workers feel appreciated, it has simply made many feel angry and served to highlight how little they are valued.
There’s no doubt the government had the best intentions when it designed the payment, and some allowances should be made because the policy was initially rolled out in a rush at the start of the pandemic. However, any errors or omissions in the bonus’s initial design could have been fixed by now.
The government’s handling of the aged care retention bonus, its failure to recognise aged care workers across the board, feels like a decision made from afar, without a clear understanding of how an aged care facility operates. It seems to be yet another case of the government grappling to understand and failing to deliver what the industry really needs.
Aged care workers have been operating at the beating heart of the COVID-19 crisis. They are the ones witnessing residents becoming distraught because they are not able to see their loved ones. They are the ones having to live with the fear of bringing the virus home to their families. They are the ones having to dress in PPE, and undertake more training. They are the ones having to work longer shifts every day for weeks because their home is short staffed. They are the ones seeing residents die. They are exhausted. They are frightened. For many, working as an aged care worker during COVID-19 will leave emotional scars they will carry for years, if not forever.
It’s such a great shame the government couldn’t have shown greater understanding and compassion for these extraordinary people at this difficult time. It’s time aged care workers were given steady jobs, with proper worker entitlements and decent pay. That’s the bonus that should come out of the pandemic for these essential workers.