On Tuesday 25th October 2022, the Government handed down the mini-budget, announcing a grant of reprieve from aged care fee increases and introducing an additional $3.9 billion in funding for the sector. Having already committed to substantial aged care worker pay increases, the question is, will the Government be able to fulfil their commitments? Attwood Marshall Lawyers Wills and Estates Senior Associate and Accredited Aged Care Professional, Debbie Sage, discusses what aged care workers, residents, those transitioning into aged care, and their families need to be aware of as the sector continues to reform.
The Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) released a report this year that revealed just how dire the situation is for the aged care industry. The sector is facing a shortage of 35,000 workers this year alone.
If workforce shortages at this level continue, we will not have enough workers to meet the basic standards of care recommended by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
The ‘Duty of Care: Aged care sector in crisis’ report finds the annual staff shortage has doubled in less than a year from 17,000 to 35,000 due to a combination of challenging pandemic-driven circumstances and a lack of action by governments.
The aged care workforce was already under significant pressure with staff shortages, low pay, poor working conditions and increased negative attention leading up to the Royal Commission, which bought to light just how broken the system was, and how systemic workforce problems meant hard-working and dedicated workers simply were not supported.
Over the past three years, COVID-19 amplified these pressures. Aged care has been at the centre of many COVID-19 outbreaks, resulting in devastating consequences for residents, and a nightmare environment for the workers trying to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.
For a workforce already burnt out before the pandemic, for many, this has been the breaking point.
In response to this continuing crisis, the Albanese government has committed to funding additional initiatives to reform the aged care sector in its Mini Budget 2022.
Mini budget 2022 and aged care
The mini budget announced or reconfirmed commitments to aged care reform concerning:
- Increasing the time dedicated to each resident to receive quality care, expecting this to increase to 215 care minutes per resident each day from 1 October 2024.
- The need for more registered nurses to be onsite 24 hours a day. This is expected to take place from 1 July 2023, with all residential care services required a registered nurse on site at all times unless an exemption is granted.
- Better quality of food to ensure residents are well nourished. The Maggie Beer Foundation will be granted $5 million to support this initiative.
- National registration scheme to be established, which will include a code of conduct, ongoing professional development requirements for aged care workers and criminal history screening policies
- Capping home care fees and abolishing exit fees
- Refining in-home care services
- Establishing a dedicated Aged Care Complaints Commissioner to target systemic administration and governance issues and improve the outcomes for aged care residents
The government will also be providing $540.3 million to go towards information and communication technologies, expanding regional outreach and extending disability support.
The industry’s peak body, the Aged & Community Care Providers Association, said the budget was an essential step on the road to fixing Australia’s broken aged care system. The additional funding for registered nurses to be able to be on site for 24 hours and boosting care minutes for residents is certainly a win, but despite these efforts, more is no doubt required to ensure these goals can be achieved and the industry can be turned around to support the aging population now and into the future. Aged care worker wage claim
The Fair Work Commission is currently deliberating on the aged care worker wage claim, which is a case that has been brought forward by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation and the Health Services Union, fighting for a 25 per cent pay increase for aged care workers.
It has been made clear that aged care wages need to be made more competitive in order to be able to retain, and attract, skilled workers in this sector.
With the announcement of the mini-budget, one unknown factor remains, and that is how the government intends to fund the wage increase if the claim moves forward in the coming months.
The cost of the wage increase for over 300,000 aged care workers is unknown at this time.
Attwood Marshall Lawyers – supporting people through every stage of life
We can only hope that the government upholds its commitments and that the promised changes will start to take effect as we move into 2023, to improve the aged care industry and support older Australians in getting the care, dignity, and respect that they deserve.
We continue to advocate for significant change in the industry that will better protect the elderly and hard-working professionals who are passionate about caring for aging Australians.
Our experienced team can help anyone who is considering transitioning to aged care, understand what options are available and factors they must consider before making the move.
If you need advice about aged care, retirement village leases, service or resident agreements, or estate planning, contact our Wills and Estates and Aged Care Department Manager, Donna Tolley, on direct line 07 5506 8241, email firstname.lastname@example.org or book an appointment online instantly by clicking here
We are one of the few law firms who has an Accredited Aged Care Professional on site to be able to provide advice on what is going on in the industry and guide you through the process of making important aged care decisions to ensure your best interests, or that of a loved one, are protected.
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