Personal care assistants currently make up 71.5% of the aged care industry, yet they receive nowhere near the same level of admiration and respect of their nurse colleagues.
As the aged care sector struggles to meet the demands of Australia’s ageing population, it will be the lowest-paid and least qualified staff members who will be called upon to provide the bulk of the care.
The quality and training of personal care assistants have been a hot topic throughout the Royal Commission, but the advent of a new national registration called The Australian College of Care Workers (ACCW) is hoping to have a positive impact on the aged care sector.
Unlike nurses who must be licensed by The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), personal care assistants are not classed as health professionals and do not face the same level of scrutiny regarding education, training, and qualification.
Unlicensed workers can obviously pose a number of problems, as this removes the possibility of potential employers performing adequate background checks and understanding a carer’s work history.
While the ACCW platform is still voluntary, it will only accept members who have attained a set level of qualifications, meet the minimum hours of work experience and have the required identity documents and checks.
A large percentage of personal care workers in Australia have English as a second language, which has sparked a continuous debate regarding the level of English literacy that should be required in order to deliver care.
ACCW members are required to have completed at least year 9 at an English-speaking school and be deemed competent in Basic and General English or English as an Additional Language (EAL)
Becoming an ACCW member will also require carers to complete 20 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) per year from recognised training providers to help improve the standard of care and support new career pathways.
While members are required to pay a yearly fee in order to gain membership, the ACCW hopes to provide members with industry recognition, networking and employment opportunities and strong advocacy for the carer workforce.
Annie Butler, Federal Secretary for the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, spoke with HelloCare earlier this year and outlined her thoughts on potential licensing of carers in the aged care industry.
“The ANMF has a long-held position that care workers in the aged care industry should be licensed,” said Annie.
“The system that AHPRA runs, and there is a national law that sets out the regulation for all health professionals, the key purpose of that is the protection of public safety, so that’s what you’re trying to achieve when you license a worker, and there are increasing calls for this, especially since the announcement of the Royal Commission.”
“There are some carer’s out there right now with very minimal training, and there may even be some who have no training whatsoever. There will be some who have been to really good organisations who have a good quality of care worker training behind them.”
Although a voluntary registration platform is not ideal, it is definitely a step in the right direction for the sector as a whole, and it will be interesting to see just how many carers put their hands up to be a part of it.