Aged Care Workforce Article Series: Wrap-up
Written by Lauranne Beernaert, Sector Support Coordinator
Over the past few months, we have focused on the aged care workforce because it is clear that the resolution of workforce issues will contribute to building a stronger and high-quality aged care system. Acknowledging that certain issues are outside of our control, we provided suggestions on how to be proactive about our workforce, such as through workforce planning, by building our employer’s value brand, or by establishing solid supervision processes. This wrap-up article will summarise the findings of two recent reports on workforce and provide some take-away messages.
2020 Aged Care Workforce Census
Released every four years, the Census gives an overview of the aged care workforce, with a focus on providing benchmarks on the size, growth, attributes, and skills of the workforce. The Census was sent in December 2020 to Residential Aged Care (RAC) facilities, Home Care (HCPP) providers, and CHSP providers across the country.
Key findings include:
|Residential Aged Care|
|Home Care Packages Program|
|Commonwealth Home Support Program|
- Infection Prevention & Control = most reported specialist skill.
- At the time of the Census, there were an estimated 22,000 vacancies in direct care roles across the Sector.
- Number of volunteers has almost halved compared to 2016, which is attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2020 Aged Care Workforce Census report can be downloaded here.
CompliSpace Aged Care Workforce Report
CompliSpace’s latest report titled ‘A Perfect Storm: What’s driving Australia’s Aged Care Staffing Crisis’ focuses on workforce issues in residential aged care. However it is safe to assume that many of their findings reflect the home/community care workforce, as workers are known to work across both settings. Based on a survey that collected 1,011 responses representing around 250 services in June/July 2021, the survey aimed at understanding the challenges and needs of Australian aged care workers in light of the Royal Commission, the Quality Standards and COVID-19.
The workforce now:
- Has mixed feelings about key government measures
- Has experienced an increased workload due to COVID-19 regulations and the 2019 Aged Care Quality Standards
- 60% of aged care workers feel that technologies are making their work easier
The workforce in the future:
- 47,000 workers plan to quit aged care in next 12 months
- 110,000 workers plan to quit aged care in next 3 years
Reasons for this exodus:
- low remuneration
- high stress
- ‘too much paperwork’
Reasons to stay:
- relationships with residents
- job satisfaction and fulfillment
- relationships with co-workers
The CompliSpace report can be downloaded via this portal.
Take away messages
These two reports’ findings reconfirm the Sector’s key messages of the past few months about understaffing, low pay, inadequate training but also high levels of commitment and care. There are however some areas where all providers can focus on to proactively prepare and respond to the workforce challenge:
- Staff attraction and retention: with an aging workforce who is increasingly tempted to leave the industry, it is critical that each organization understands and plans for their workforce. Consider the composition of your direct care workforce and future needs: do you need to hire different job profiles such as nurses or allied health professionals?
Besides the critical issue of pay, we know that other factors highly influence aged care workers to stay/leave the industry (read the HESTA report), and that great leadership and positive workplace/culture are effective retention strategies (check the Australian HR Institute report). Check this short article that suggests practical, small and effective strategies to retain aged care staff; interestingly it states that the first 90 days of a person in a new organisation are the most critical.
- Qualification: on average, 2/3 of direct staff hold a Certificate III qualification or above. While soft skills (personal values and attitudes) cannot be acquired, hard skills can be taught and are important to safeguard the quality of care. The newly launched A Life Changing Life campaign by the Government provides information to staff wishing to progress their careers (JobTrainer, TAFE/RTO).
- Ongoing Training and Development: infection protection & control is the area in which providers most commonly offer training. This is far from being sufficient given the complex and diverse needs of clients. Many specialist organisations acknowledge the cost and time constraints related to learning and provide free and flexible training modules, such as Dementia Training Australia or Phoenix Australia (trauma). You can also access our Learning Library which compiles some great free/low-cost resources in all areas of aged care, incl. mental health, wellness & reablement, human rights in practice, diversity awareness, and governance. Finally, given the anticipated requirement to provide more data on services, quality and workforce, training in technology use might also be useful.
- Streamlining processes and systems: we know that there is so much uncertainty about the new requirements and measures that will be implemented as part of the reforms. However, we know that inefficient systems create an additional burden for staff who lose precious time to care for their clients and can create frustrations. Consider whether there is a need to review your current systems and processes so that they are as straightforward, clear, and efficient as they can be.