The Federal Government has overwhelmingly failed to make adequate progress during 2021, according to a scathing new scorecard released by aged care providers.
The inaugural ‘aged care reform scorecard’ is found within a new report from the Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC), which notes that although little “tangible milestones” can be expected only six months out from the conclusion of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, “serious concerns” are already emerging.
“Survey responses indicate these concerns are driven by lack of transparency, ineffective consultation, perceived inattention to outcomes, and unclear commitments on a number of key issues on the part of the Government,” the report reads.
“The lack of an overarching roadmap or plan makes it difficult for older people and their families to see how the system is being reformed.”
Paul Sadler, chief executive officer of Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA), echoes the report, saying that Government progress over the last sixth months has been worryingly slow.
“Providers have significant concern that the reform process is too slow and lacks transparency,” he says.
“Every day of delay is a missed opportunity to offer someone the best quality of life and care possible as they age.”
Struggling aged care workforce ignored
In terms of overall confidence in the reforms process, three quarters of providers gave a confidence score of less than 50/100.
Furthermore, out of 9 outcome areas, the Government was seen to perform well in only two, with the traffic-light coding system rating most areas ‘amber’.
Whilst supply and choice of services, as well as independent costing of aged care services got a green rating (61-80 confidence score), fundamental components such as workforce and quality assurance stand out with their glaring red rating (0-20 confidence score).
In fact, 40 per cent survey respondents’ concerns related to wages, staffing or workforce issues.
It was “disappointing”, the report commented, that the Government has not decided to actively participate alongside unions in the Work Value case currently being deliberated by the Fair Work Commission.
“This is a missed opportunity to take an active role in lifting the pay and conditions on offer to aged care workers in recognition of the contribution they make to the quality of life of older people,” the report reads.
Sean Rooney, chief executive officer of Leading Aged Care Services Australia (LASA) says that providers now face a “genuine crisis” in finding and retaining skilled staff.
“The Royal Commission provided a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix the broken aged care system and we need a skilled and experienced workforce to deliver on the potential for better aged care services,” he says
“We need a commitment from Government to fully resource providers to better reward our workforce and support training and career progression for those who want to work in aged care.”
Following the results of the inaugural scorecard, the AACC is calling on the Federal Government to ensure:
- a strategic response to the range of workforce issues;
- a consistent flow of information about reform implementation, including timeframes for consultations and progress against milestones; and
- genuine partnering with providers and other stakeholders to work towards a shared vision of high-quality aged care.
Workforce Council pushing for reforms in 2022
Louise O’Neill, chief executive officer of the Aged Care Workforce Industry Council (the Council), tells Aged Care News that her organisation is proactively responding to this feedback.
“The Council acknowledges the ongoing pressures experienced by the workforce raised in the Australian Aged Care Collaboration’s aged care reform scorecard.
“The sector, and the aged care workforce, have been through an incredibly challenging time, and the majority have provided excellent care for some of our most vulnerable older people.”
She notes that heading into 2022, the Council will be ramping up a number of campaigns to deliver better conditions for workers in the industry.
“In 2021, the Council delivered the first phase of a promotional campaign to improve the public’s perception of careers in aged care,” she says.
Titled ‘Bring your thing’, the campaign reached more than a million Australians, and served as an invitation to workers to transfer their existing skills and personality to a new career in aged care.
O’Neill says that the campaign will be continued into 2022, alongside other new initiatives.
“We are making good progress on the co-design of a workforce planning tool, to support the sector to build and adjust their workforce to meet current and future demands.
“We will continue to consult with and involve the sector and Government as we begin our next major piece of work, to develop a blueprint of the future structure of the aged care workforce.”
She says that consulting firm BDO Australia has been tasked to assist the Council in this project, which will involve setting out the job architecture, job types and career pathways of the future aged care workforce.
The Council will also work closely with the federal health department and other peak bodies to help deliver elements of the strategy that sit outside the Council’s remit.
“I encourage anyone who is interested in our work to get in touch via our website,” O’Neill says.
“There are a range of ways to get involved, and we want to hear from you, to ensure that our work is fit-for-purpose and serving the needs of the sector and the aged care workforce.”
The Council recently released their “Workforce Narrative”, which encapsulates over 109,000 survey responses from aged care workers over a 10-year period and provides actionable insights for providers.
The Australian Aged Care Collaboration is a group of six aged care peak bodies: Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA), Anglicare Australia, Baptist Care Australia, Catholic Health Australia, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) and UnitingCare Australia.
The group has recently committed to a national restructuring of aged care advocacy groups, which will see ACSA and LASA merge into a unitary body.