The review is part of an application with the FWC to increase aged care wages by 25%.
The Aged Care Workforce Industry Council (ACWIC) has held meetings with industry stakeholders to examine the application.
The royal commission recommended that ACWIC “lead the Australian Government and the aged care sector to a consensus to support applications to the Fair Work Commission to improve wages based on work value and/or equal remuneration”.
However, the government has declined to take part, even though a broad range of industry stakeholders have engaged in the discussions.
“The Federal Government via the Department of Health was invited to attend and participate but declined,” the statement notes.
The consensus statement reflects the views of aged care peak bodies and unions, but not all of the panel.
“A decision of the Fair Work Commission to increase minimum wages in the aged care sector must be fully funded by the Federal Government and linked to transparency and accountability measures as to how funding is used,” the statement says.
The key point is that aged care wages should rise.
“The stakeholders agree that wages in the aged care sector need to be significantly increased because the work of aged care workers has been historically undervalued for a range of reasons and has not been properly assessed by the Fair Work Commission or any other industrial tribunal,” the statement says.
“Minimum wages in awards need to be set according to the value of the work done by workers in aged care, recognising increases in the complexity of the nature of the work and skills and responsibility involved in doing the work and changes to the conditions under which work is done.”
The first point is that Australians are living longer.
“The proportion of Australians over the age of 65 is set to increase from 15% to 23% by 2066.
“With advanced age often comes increased frailty, which is associated with increased morbidity, declining function and a concurrent need for support.
“As a result, aged care consumers are entering aged care with more frailty, co-morbidities and acute care needs.
“Thus, the acuity of recipients of aged care services has increased and this trend is expected to continue.”
The statement also notes the higher proportion of older people receiving aged care who are living with dementia, the greater need for palliative care, increased need for socio-emotional support, and the greater number and complexity of medications prescribed.
It notes the greater numbers receiving person-centered care at home which requires “greater numbers of staff with a broad range of capabilities”.
“Home care workers must plan and adapt to different duties and levels of expectations from client to client,” the statement says.
“Home care workers work with minimal supervision, and the increase in acuity and dependency of recipients of aged care services means that these workers are exercising more independent decision-making, problem solving and judgment on a broader range of matters.”
The statement notes the decrease in the number of nurses working in aged care and the increase in the proportion of PCWs and AINs on staff.
“PCWs are being required to perform duties that were traditionally undertaken by nurses [such as peg feeding and catheter support] after receiving relevant training and/or instruction.”
Working in aged care also required “significant degrees of discretion and judgement” because they are working so closely with vulnerable people.
The statement proposes increased training for aged care workers, including aged- care-specific training for nurses, and for the Certificate III to include loss and grief support, palliative care, dementia care, falls-prevention strategies, assisting with meals and providing or assisting with oral hygiene.
The statement notes that staff providing indirect care, such as food services, cleaning and admin staff, “are an important part of the aged care team” and require “higher levels of skill when compared to similar workers in other sectors, or to aged care in the past.”
The statement refers to the role wages play in meeting the pressing need to recruit and retain more aged care staff.
“Wages in aged care need to be competitive to attract and retain the number of skilled workers needed,” it says.
“Minimum award wages of nurses are significantly lower than in the acute health sector, making aged care a less attractive choice for nurses. Minimum award wages of PCWs are significantly lower than for disability support workers.”
While the government has not been involved in these discussions, opposition leader Anthony Albanese said on the weekend that Labor would support the application for higher wages in aged care.