Aged care workforce increasingly skilled

The aged care workforce has become more permanent and younger over the last five years, according to new workforce statistics.

The Australian Government’s 2020 Aged Care Workforce Census Report, released this week, found there was more than 277,000 staff across the national workforce, with more than three out of four engaged in direct personal care. Of these, almost 130,000 were employed full time.

Full-time roles within residential aged care have increased 32 per cent over the last five years, amid strong growth in staffing across the sector.

Staffers are also younger, continuing an ongoing trend. Around half are aged under 40 years, up from one-third in 2016.

The report is a five-yearly snapshot of the workforce and this year included updates from the impact of COVID-19, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the A Matter of Care workforce strategy.

More than 40 per cent of residential aged care facilities employed more personal care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The engagement of nurses, which has become a political issue following the royal commission, is also laid out in the report.

Amid calls for 24/7 rostering of nurses in aged care – a recommendation from the royal commission – the census found most facilities (80 per cent) reported they had a registered nurse rostered overnight every day in the last fortnight.

An additional 9 per cent said there was a registered nurse on-call overnight every day in the same period.

Nurses were also likely to run aged care as managers.

“Managers of [residential aged care] facilities are more likely to have a nursing qualification than a business qualification,” they said.

“The most common qualifications for care managers in [home care packages program] were also in nursing while the most common qualification for [Commonwealth Home Support Programme] care managers was business management.

“However, a large proportion of HCPP and CHSP providers indicated that their managers had qualifications in areas other than those listed.”

About two in every three personal care workers in residential aged care have a Certificate III in a relevant field. Six out of 10 people working for home care providers has the same, while in the CHSP it was more than seven out of 10.

Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said the census highlighted the increase in direct care working in the industry over the last five years.

He said the changes showed the industry was becoming more skilled, with more nurses.

“Right across the aged care sector we continue to see examples of a workforce that is determined to make individual care a priority,” Minister Colbeck said.

He said there were ongoing efforts to increase the base and skills of the workforce, pointing to the $652.1 million package from the Budget.

“Aged care workers are the engine room of the reforms and key to ensuring respect, care and dignity for senior Australians,” he said.

“The census also benchmarks the attributes and skills central to the delivery of quality aged care – a useful reference for us as we move through our $17.7 billion, five year, five pillar reform of aged care.


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