Jan 25, 2023

Relocation caveats for PALM scheme workers raise concerns

Experts have expressed concerns over “red flags” in the current Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme as families of PALM workers prepare to relocate to Australia at their own expense with no access to Medicare.

PALM scheme aged care workers from Pacific Island countries will soon be able to reunite with their families after being separated from them to fill dire gaps in the Australian aged care workforce, despite concerns the move won’t be viable for some families as they will need to foot the bill for relocation and housing costs.

Currently, PALM workers are required to pay for health insurance and need to pay hospital costs in full if they are pregnant and give birth in Australia.

Matt Withers, an expert on temporary labour migration at Australian National University, told The Guardian that without more Government subsidies to help workers who want to bring their families over, this lack of aid would undermine the point of the scheme.

“There are certain parameters in the way it has been set up which raise a few red flags for me in terms of the likelihood that workers are actually able to bring their families across,” he said.

“It becomes a bit contradictory in that sense if we are loading all of these costs onto the workers themselves in a program that is basically designed to channel remittances back to Pacific Island countries.”

Back in August, South Sea Islander Worker Welfare advocate, Geoffrey Smith, told HelloCare that a lot more was needed in the scheme before the program was expanded, particularly more well-being support and accommodation for PALM workers.

“It’s not just: shove the workers over here and say, ‘OK, problem solved’,” said Mr Smith.

“They’re told: ‘You’ll be treated the same as every Australian worker’.”

Experts in the field are now urging the Government to give workers and their families access to Medicare like any other Australian taxpayer to ease some financial burden.

In advice to workers wanting to use the scheme, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) warned families that may fall pregnant while in Australia that they would need to consider if they have sufficient funds to travel home for the birth or pay $10,000 out of pocket in an Australian hospital.

The move also raises equity issues as workers don’t have a choice on where they work in Australia. Those living in rural areas have a higher chance of encountering problems accessing services such as childcare, housing and other job vacancies for their family.

In November, concerns by Pacific Island nations involved with the PALM scheme grew as skills shortages became apparent in their healthcare systems as highly qualified nurses move to Australia for work.

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  1. Australia can do much better than this.

    We need to:
    Require employers to solve the accommodation problem, the workers cannot.
    Identify the number in each family who can come to Australia under this scheme.
    Provide access to Medicare for workers and family.
    Ensure everyone understands that births in Australia are the same Visa as parents, not automatically Citizens or Residents.
    Visas for whole family are canceled if parents get a criminal conviction.
    Government Inspectors are active to ensure accommodation, employment conditions and pay are as advertised and workers are treated well.

    A great scheme for Australia ! Don’t ruin it by allowing the ripoff merchants to run rampant. Detailed conditions and close supervision of the whole scheme is essential.

  2. Absolutely obsurd!! Just where are all these people and the families going to live?? We have a massive shortage of rentals in this country and if you find a rental somewhere can these people afford the rent on the rate of pay aged care workers get? Maybe the companies hiring them will find accomodation for them as that what I read on some visa sight recently. But atnwho’s expense? The people who are already desperate for a home that’s who! The only way to fix the Aged care problems is to pay all staff the same rate of pay as they get in government hospitals! You will never attract great people intonthe aged care system unless the pay and conditions are the same as in the public sector! It is certainly not the most popular work out there for obvious reasons! Even if the pay was great it is the sort of work that not alot would want to do. But you have to start somewhere to keep the staff you have and to encourage people already living here. PAY THE DOLLARS AND THEY WILL COME!

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