Jul 21, 2022

Government to prioritise foreign worker visas to bolster aged care workforce

21_7_2022 foreign workers

The Federal Government has confirmed plans to prioritise 60,000 permanent visa applications lodged by skilled foreign workers in hopes of easing workforce shortages in aged care, education and the broader health sector.

With a current backlog of close to a million visa applications across several categories due to COVID-19 border closures, the Department of Home Affairs will now look to bolster its own workforce to tackle processing delays.

Speaking on ABC Radio yesterday, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil provided listeners with an insight into the visa gridlock.

“The change is prioritising people who are offshore who are wanting to come here to work and working through those applications as quickly as we can.

“It’s a drop in the ocean when we are talking about a backlog that is close to a million.”

In addition to prioritising skilled worker visa applications that will benefit the sector, the Government has also signalled its intention to prioritise aged care in Canberra next Tuesday when Parliamentary sittings return.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has vowed that the first pieces of legislation to be introduced to parliament will be amendments to the Aged Care Act to boost the nursing workforce and tackle high administration fees, along with a jobs and skills bill.

This will be the first meeting of Parliament since the May Election and those within the sector hope that the renewed focus on aged care will bring some much-needed relief related to the slew of issues currently plaguing the aged care system.

Surge workforce solutions being reconsidered

Outrage regarding aged care workforce shortages has hit a fever pitch in recent weeks as providers with depleted rosters brace themselves for what is expected to be the most significant wave of COVID-19 since January.

The urgency of this issue prompted an emergency meeting between Aged Care Minister Anika Wells and both the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and the Aged Care Advisory Group yesterday. 

During this meeting, Minister Wells flagged the potential for more Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel to be deployed into aged care homes again to ease pressure on a system that she says has been neglected for years.

“I am trying to be on the ground talking to and listening to as many people in aged care as possible.”

The latest statistics reveal that 900 aged care homes are being impacted by COVID-19 in Australia.

Earlier this week, Aged and Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA) Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Paul Sadler, told HelloCare that there is currently only 15 ADF personnel assisting aged care services across the country.

This scaling back of ADF support has left many in the industry baffled as the prospect of more COVID-19 outbreaks looms over the coming weeks.

“Let’s call a spade a spade here,” said Minister Wells. 

“There are not enough workers in aged care, shifts are going short every single day. It is a sector in crisis, it is a sector that has been neglected for nine years.”

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  1. It appears to me that the solution to the aged care workforce challenge has been, and continues to be, to attract immigrants. When is someone going to ask the obvious question of why Australian residents and citizens do not want to work in aged care? All of the Workforce Reports that have been produced in the last few years, the Royal Commission and Unions have raised concerns about the the pay rates, work conditions and everything else in the industry. Despite all of that it could be construed that it is all rhetoric and that no one actually wants to do anything in the long term to improve the industry in a sustainable way within the boundaries of our own borders.

    1. Putting out the fire with gasoline – a dangerous reaction in the Ivory Towers (Fawlty Towers).

      Currently, when things go wrong In Aged Care facilities the facility owners and their management personnel regularly are quick to blame migrant staff who they claim struggle to comprehend, speak and write basic and fluid English.

      A dire situation for those seeking a safe and quality environment.

      The previous LNP government and the current Labour government were/are not serious about addressing the disgraceful failings in the Aged Care system.
      The Minister for Aged Care was/is also the Minister for Sport.
      The Aged Care serious problems demand the full attention of a Minister dedicated to the AC cause with no other distractions – like Sport.

      1. TOTALLY AGREE with all the comments. This is not the answer.
        My enrolled nurses and skilled PCW run rings around my RN foreign workers.
        It scares me at times.
        Why cant we take our Bachelor of Nursing students and mandate hours of service in aged care as part of their qualification. The would learn all the basics of nursing care from hand washing, communication, time management and toileting, hygiene and the list goes on.
        It would upskill the students for their future career in any field and it would assist with bringing more workers to aged care.
        And it is right under our nose.

  2. Short staffed is not new, I have worked in this industry for over two decades, it has ALWAYS been short staffed and ALWAYS underplayed with a high turnover of staff!!!
    If you are bringing in overseas staff make sure they know what the Australian Standards are (especially) PCC!!!

    1. Agree. Also give them more education in all aspects of care. Ususally everyone does education covering all aspects eg, hand washing, the right way to dispose of waste, etc. I think there are barriers with language and getting used to how things are done here. Always short staffed and the work isn’t appreciated enough. It’s hard work. Residents deserve so much better. I’m a former aged care nurse and I really appreciate all who work in aged care. Hoping things change for the better.

  3. ‘Skilled ‘ foreign workers? Yeah right. Been there done that what a disaster! Hope they speak English.

  4. All I can say is ” Please God” after my husband having to go to Aged Care, may I never have to travel that path.
    He could not walk or talk or even press a button if he needed help. Alzheimer’s was the culprit. Hours would elapse and other resedidents would tell me some days he never had breakfast as nobody was free to feed him.
    I think VAD should be available to everyone over 80 years of age at their request whether they are terminal or not. Such suffering and unhappiness goes on and on and on……..

  5. Alasdair is correct. Unless something meaningful is corrected in the sector we will not rise above the real issues. Pay rates. This is the only reason Australians will not work in the industry. Not an attractive option for most. Most of the foureign workers in Aged Care always move on. Our standard of living here is expensive. Most don’t drive. Most rely on public transport. Most live in overcrowded accommodation. Most miss their families and go home over and over again. I have been in the industry long enough to predict the inevitable.

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