Addressing the workforce crisis, a minimum wage increase, and improving the quality of care for all older Australians should be at the forefront of any policy making and promises at this month’s Federal Election, according to a number of aged care industry leaders.
Representatives from Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) and Council on the Ageing (COTA) Queensland say everyone should have access to quality care and dignity in their older years, and they are urging whichever party wins the election on May 21 to make fixing the failing aged care system a priority.
Both say recommendations from the 2018 Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety must be addressed, which saw 148 wide-ranging recommendations for the fundamental reform of the aged care system.
Aged and Community Services Australia Chief Executive Officer Paul Sadler (pictured above) said “we can’t offer the best possible aged care for older Australians without the dedication and skill of our aged care workforce”.
“Aged care was already suffering a serious workforce shortage and low wages prior to the pandemic, so attracting home care and other aged care workers has become even more difficult through the pressures of the last two years,” Mr Sadler said.
“We look to the next government to prioritise the creation and training of an Australian workforce via real wage increases and training to assist people into aged care.
“ACSA respects the aged care workforce and supports a pay increase for workers. Providers need a firm commitment from government to fund the wage increase as determined by the Fair Work Commission.
“ACSA would also like to see action on the Royal Commissions’ response that government lift aged care wages in the interim whilst waiting on Fair Work Commission outcome.
“Taking the longer perspective, the Federal Government should work with the states and territories to develop a pathway program for secondary school students into aged care, including more options for people to enter the home care workforce.”
Council on the Ageing (COTA) Queensland, which works with older people and their organisations to advance their own right, agrees.
Chief Executive Officer Mark Tucker-Evans (pictured above) said they have “actively advocated that all parties commit to fund the whole integrated package of recommendations and timelines from the Aged Care Royal Commission, with the exception of the funding and financing recommendations”.
“The introduction of Aged Care Standards has been welcomed but these need to be continuously reviewed and updated so that the providers who fall short of the standards are held to account,” he said.
“Things are changing but not fast enough, and we still have people who don’t appear to have heard the message.
“We look forward to the new Aged Care Act which should be written with the person at the heart of the legislation.”
According to Mr Tucker-Evans, within the next five years the outcomes of aged care reform should include:
• Ensuring older people are empowered to have choice and control over their care planning and service delivery.
• Ensuring that aged care continues to support options for older people and their representatives to ‘self-manage’ their care services.
• Ensuring that engagement with older people and their families by the Australian Government in the design and implementation of the aged care reforms is genuine.
• And ensuring that service providers performance, quality, safety and costs are transparent and accountable.
With many older Australians wishing to remain in their own homes, Mr Tucker-Evans said there also needed to be appropriate support and training for personal care workers.
And his direct message to political leaders and candidates?
“Thirty-four percent of Australia’s population is aged over 50 years. Not all are wealthy or well connected. Some are vulnerable, discriminated against and are often left out of government’s thinking,” he said.
“As a society we should be judged on how we treat our most vulnerable members. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who has contributed to building Australia throughout their life and are now forced to live on government benefits and ask yourself are we truly doing enough to value the older person?”
Moreton Daily reached out to all the political parties and independents running in the seats of Petrie, Dickson and Longman to hear their policies on aged care.
Each party was given a deadline of 5pm on Monday, May 9, and a word limit of 250 words.
This is what they said:
Aged care will continue to require more government funding as our population ages. We must put in place a more sustainable and secure funding model to ensure we are able to care for the needs of ageing Australians well into the future. One Nation puts Australia and Australians first.
One Nation considers there must be a doctor, or suitably qualified practitioner such as a registered nurse with appropriate training, available at all aged care facilities at all times. Exceptions will have to be made for some facilities in regional and remote areas, which often struggle to recruit qualified staff.
To ensure there are enough workers in aged care now and in the future, One Nation considers wages should be substantially increased and working conditions improved. Workers must be competent in English; where aged care workers are not proficient in the language, there’s a potential risk in aged care.
One Nation also acknowledges the value of in-home aged care, for both patients and the taxpayer. Many people prefer ageing in their homes and moving to a facility only for end-of-life care, thus reducing the need for more aged care beds.
We have an ageing population, but there is not enough care for older people in our community and they do not have access to treatment that is good enough. It’s time that older people in our country are given the level of care they need.
The Greens will fully implement the findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care. On average right now, aged care residents are only provided with 2 hours and 50 minutes of care per resident per day. We’ll invest $6 billion per year to increase minimum hours of care to 4 hours 18 minutes per resident per day, introduce staff to resident ratios, increase wages and improve conditions and training.
We will guarantee a human rights-based approach to aged care and physical and chemical restraints, and invest $260 million to keep the home care package waiting list clear.
We’ll also phase out for-profit providers - because big private corporations should not be allowed to make millions running aged care for profit.
As with all of the Greens' plans, our aged care initiatives are independently costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office, and fully funded by finally making billionaires and big corporations pay their fair share of tax.
Alan Buchbach - Independent:
With my background and experience, I have learned to seek expert opinions.
I would support the seven recommendations of NACA as well as the recommendations made from the findings of the Royal commission. Stressing in particular those recommendations 35-38 and 58 with respect to access to Allied Health and Specialist Doctors in aged care. This includes care-at-home and in aged-care facilities.
I believe that the solution does not involve more government facilities (as we have seen how poorly they performed these past three years, with more than 75% of all covid deaths occurring in aged-care facilities) but rather we should support our elderly who want to stay at home, and ensuring they get the services they deserve.
Honestly, every policy area is inter-related. There is no health or other plan that can be brought into fruition without our nation prospering. Prosperity requires an atmosphere of freedom to flourish, so our first step must be to wind back and stamp out the many restrictions placed upon Australians. T
With that in mind, we must ask: Where are they going to cut services or raise taxes to fund their initiatives on aged care? The LNP claims to increase spending by $1.2b/year and the ALP by $2.5b; both parties have pledged to reduce the deficit however and need to find $50b / year in savings as a minimum to do so. So where are they cutting?
Legalise Cannabis Australia:
Many voters don’t know about the Legalise Party. Some ask about our other policies or want to know about our opinion on issues other than Cannabis.
Officially we have no other policies but cannabis legalisation will have far reaching consequences for the whole planet.
When tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is declassified, there will be freedom for a plant that once was the most widely used for everything including food and shelter.
Petrochemical, coal, cotton, wood-pulp, soybean, pharmaceuticals, alcohol and other industries will have to compete with cannabis after prohibition is repealed.
Relaxing the laws for ‘hemp’ will make it easier to cultivate and help offset the effects of climate change. We are hoping enough people will vote 1 legalise cannabis to put the issue on the government’s agenda.
Cannabis is ideal for older people and retirees with physical pain like arthritis and it can be a great help for insomnia. If we had our way, it would be provided free or extremely cheaply to aged care residents. One good thing about cannabis is it has often enjoyable and harmless side effects, unlike many pharmaceutical drugs.
The war on cannabis is driven by Big Pharma who want to control pain relief, the biggest business on Earth.
Moreton Daily did not receive a response before deadline from the Liberal Democratic Party, Liberal National Party, United Australia Party, Australian Labor Party, Animal Justic Party or independent Thor Prohaska.
Note: Journalist Ashleigh Howarth is not related to the Liberal National Party candidate Luke Howarth.