Jun 07, 2022

“We haven’t valued people enough”: New minister outlines plans for aged care

Anika Wells - We haven't valued people enough
Image courtesy of Twitter: Anika Wells (left).

The new Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells, has outlined her plans for the sector, saying now that international borders are open she will be examining the prospect of using overseas staff to assist in filling tens of thousands of job vacancies.

“While recruitment of Australians to fill roles in the aged care sector is a priority for the government, migration has historically played a role in the aged care workforce and will continue to play a role in future,” Wells told The Sydney Morning Herald.

Low pay and lack of recognition, highlighted during the pandemic, have driven a mass staff exodus from aged care, and has been magnified by border closures. The army has been called in to assist in some homes as staff shortages caused circumstances to become dire.

Labor backs bid for higher pay

During the election campaign, Labor promised to back the unions’ bid for a 25% pay increase for aged care workers, and pledged that qualified nurses would be required in aged care homes 24 hours a day. 

It promised to attract workers to the aged care industry by improving working conditions and training new workers through free TAFE courses and more university places. 

Labor said it would spend an additional $2.5 billion on aged care.

Low pay, terrible working conditions in aged care

“Many workers have left the sector due to low pay and terrible working conditions – both of which have gotten worse under this prime minister [Scott Morrison],” a Labor spokesperson told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“It’s clear that we haven’t valued people in the care and support sector enough,” Ms Wells said, SBS has reported.

“An increase in workers’ wages will overwhelmingly benefit working women, given [that] more than 85% of the direct care workforce across both residential and home care are women,” Ms Wells said.

Ms Wells has also committed to improving the quality of food and nutrition in residential aged care homes.

“Good nutrition can contribute to a reduction in falls, fewer infections and illness and, of course, overall happiness and wellbeing for older people. 

“I will work with the aged care sector to develop minimum standards for food and nutrition in residential aged care facilities,” she said.

60,000 vacancies in aged care

Catholic Health Australia recently reported there are nearly 60,000 job vacancies in aged care.

“Our … aged care providers just cannot go on with this acute understaffing,” said CHA chief executive Pat Garcia. “The situation right now is totally unsustainable.”

Mr Garcia called on the new Aged Care Minister to cut “red tape” to allow overseas healthcare workers into Australia. 

He also proposed the government offer incentives to healthcare workers to entice them to come to Australia, such as organising housing, school placements and childcare, removing visa and registration costs, and offering a certain path to residency.

“Anything to make their lives easier and lessen the burden of moving here,” he added. 

There are currently a range of skilled visa options suitable for aged care workers, including for registered and enrolled nurses, but more could be done.

Mr Garcia also suggested reforming nurse training practices to get more nurses into aged care facilities sooner, and funding and incentivising university and TAFE places, too.

However, he explained, “This pipeline will take time and we need reform that will deliver results sooner as well.”

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  1. To lessen the burden of living here in a new country!! You are pathetic.New car ..new home..new this all so easy to get. Yet the good ol Aussie who can now barely make ends meet suffer more. and losing their homes etc You make me sick

    1. Because we can’t get staff from Australia who want to do the job, because wages are so low! Just like the fruit-picking industry sees.
      Our industry is not valued because it’s seen as “women’s work” which somehow translates to it being “lesser”.

  2. Why are we making it easier for overseas people to get work here and homes when there is not enough for the Australian people. You say you are trying to help the elderly but there wages do not go up to sustain there lives. People are wanting to stay in there homes, you make them pay for a shower, cleaner, nursing, meals from a wage that is pittance. You are willing to pay tax payers monies to these people from overseas, how do they sustain themselves when they first arrive, do we also pay for there education and daily living. About time we got our priorities right. It is a disgrace. The govt officials wages are a disgrace and should be lowered, this could also go along way into our economy.

  3. Have you ask the Residents of your home what they want because residents don’t want people they can’t understand and don’t care just here for the visa we need staff that care about your residents and the reason why you need 60,000 staff is because you are putting more and more work on care staff that are treated like slaves no respect. Not listed to care staff are fed up that why they are leaving and don’t get me started on the food I am sick of complaining about the food

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