Federal Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells, has reaffirmed the Federal Government’s commitment to funding increased wages in the aged care sector at the International Dementia Conference (IDC) today.
She said the Government is fully committed to the wage increase, while she also touched on the introduction of a new ten-year plan for dementia support.
Minister Wells began her speech with a brief acknowledgement of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, paying tribute to “an exceptional leader and an exceptional woman”.
She followed up by addressing workforce issues and the need for long-term staffing support in a passionate speech on the final day of the IDC.
“Workforce is the number one issue in aged care and it’s not just us, it’s the whole care economy,” said Minister Wells.
“We have to signpost where we’re going because the Royal Commission [into Aged Care Quality and Safety] asked us to provide a better standard of care and there is no point running away from the problem.
“We are going to address migration, make the sector more attractive – the pay rise is coming – but also we have to provide better pathways.
“We are looking at all of that, I promise you.”
Minister Wells spoke of the Federal Government’s promise for 24/7 Registered Nurses (RNs) and 215 care minutes per day, two reforms that passed in a legislative bill yesterday.
Minister Wells said additional support for aged care workers is on the way with increased wages, which the Federal Government will fully fund.
“Both fairness and the market reality dictate that pay will need to rise and it will rise because we have written to the Fair Work Commission for a much-needed pay rise,” said Minister Wells.
“We want it to be significant, we want it to be meaningful and we have said that in our submission. We expect a decision over the summer.
“This Government is fully committed to fully funding that pay rise when it comes. More carers need more time to care and that is a critical pillar to building a more robust sector.”
Minister Wells added that there will be challenges ahead, but the Government is determined to reform the aged care sector, including in dementia care and support.
Minister Wells announced that the Federal Government is working on a ten-year dementia action plan that is hoped to be delivered in collaboration with State and Territory Governments.
“[The ten-year plan] is being developed in consultation with people with lived experience of dementia and we anticipate that the plan will be released for public consultation later this year,” said Minister Wells.
Although no specific details were provided, she said there will be further investments into dementia support programs.
“The Federal Government has committed to delivering practical measures to ensure people living with dementia, their families, their carers, receive the support they deserve,” said Minister Wells.
Minister Wells said that work is progressing to ensure that staff and workers receive the support they need to get additional training, as dementia is not just an aged care issue.
Shadow Minister for Aged Care and Health, Anne Ruston, also addressed the conference, highlighting the challenges the aged care industry faces.
Ms Ruston said she is committed to supporting the aged care sector with a “long term, prolonged solution” to meet the “expectations of the Australian public going forward”.
She also said there should be a greater focus on personalised care models as opposed to one-size-fits-all approaches.
“The idea that traditional models of care, or institutionalised models of care, are going to be able to deliver the balance that is required of what sits before us is very much being challenged at the moment,” said Ms Ruston
“I’m really keen to understand how we can address new models of care and perhaps put this ever present resourcing debate to one side and let’s start looking at the quality of care centre to the individual.”
Ms Ruston said the Opposition will continue to collaborate and put forward policies to make meaningful change in the aged care sector.