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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Bonus payment scheme falls flat with less than 40 per cent of workers benefiting

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It was meant to be a LNP life-buoy, cast to a cohort of fed up aged care workers who are barely treading water.

But as the Government’s Aged Care Workforce Bonus Payments wrapped up on April 28, the industry is reflecting on the scheme’s failures.  

It’s been derided by academic experts as a symptom of a cynical electioneering, but what little utility may have been gained by the small boost to workers’ bank balances wasn’t even appreciated by half of the workforce.

Data acquired from the federal health department concluded that only 105,000 workers across residential aged care (RAC) and in-home care — less than 40 per cent of the total workforce — received payment in the end.

The department could not provide more specific information about whether payment were more commonly received by residential or home care workers.

Furthermore, a health department spokesperson informed Aged Care News that, overall, 580 residential and home care providers applied for the payments — this is only 18 per cent of all aged care organisations.

Megan Mainwaring, a Sydney-based home care manager for My Home Care Group, tells Aged Care News that she and her colleagues were not at all surprised by this outcome.

“So the Government makes out that ‘oh yes, we’re giving you this, we’re giving you that, but no, that’s not the reality.”

She laments that the criteria for receiving the payments were a lot more exclusionary than the broad title of the scheme would imply, and many workers received less than the advertised maximum payment.

“We just laughed,” she says.

“Because, first of all, my understanding was that it was $600 for workers in community, then $800 for residential care workers — but you had to [strictly work in] ‘aged care’.

“So if you work [with older clients with] disabilities, or if you worked for DVA [Department of Veterans Affairs] clients, which we have a lot of, you didn’t get it.

“We have a lot of disability clients that are virtually aged care anyway, and we’ve got hundreds of DVA clients.”

Mainwaring adds that it was disappointing to see that the Government did not commitment to a flat payment; the actual amount received was based on hours worked, with part-time workers’ payments reduced.

Payments, adjusted for hours, were as follows:

HoursHome CareResidential Care
3-15$300$400
16-30$480$640
> 31$600$800

Mainwaring says this is “crazy” and shows a lack of understanding and care for realities of the industry, with 71 per cent  of RAC workers and 78 per cent of home care workers working part-time.

“Most of the people that do this job have got young kids or family that they look after themselves…  that’s how I started; I was only working 15 hours a week.

“You can’t do 40 hours a week in this job.”

To read more about Mainwaring’s account of the workforce crisis and her experience on the ground, read this Aged Care News article.

The Aged Care Workforce Bonus Payment was announced by the Morrison Government in February, with two instalments of up to $400 paid to qualifying aged care workers, which included food preparation workers and cleaners in RAC.

The first instalment was paid on February 28 and the second was paid on April 28.

Payment amounts were prorated based on the highest number of hours worked in a single week out of the four weeks leading up to the payment dates.

In order to receive payments, aged care providers and agencies had to apply on behalf of their workers.

Payments were made to the providers, who were then asked to forward payments to their workers within their wages.

Payments were subject to tax, as they were considered part of workers’ ordinary income.

The Government says these payments were recognition of the significant commitment aged care workers have made to the care of senior Australians during the pandemic, as well as an incentive for those who are returning to the workforce to supplement the current staff during the current omicron wave.

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