Victorian aged care provider Benetas is repurposing a number of independent living units in Bendigo to provide temporary accommodation for employees struggling to pay local rent or having to commute from Melbourne to maintain their employment.
Research released by Everybody’s Home shows that in certain areas of Victoria, essential workers are being priced out of the rental market as housing prices in regional markets boom. The research shows that, in particular, aged care workers are being required to use one to two-thirds of their week’s wages simply to cover their rental fees.
Inside Ageing has spoken with a number of providers struggling to find workers who need to bring staff from their facilities in the city to cover shifts in regional areas. A lack of local accommodation (temporary or otherwise), means the staff have long commutes.
In addition, Anglicare Australia this week released its landmark study Valuing Every Contribution, which found that three in four Australians would back an unconditional basic income above the poverty line for every person. The report suggests this income security would see enormous economic and social benefits across the board.
Benetas CEO Sandra Hills OAM said that workforce issues in aged care are an ongoing challenge and we need to think outside the box in order to keep good people employed.
“At the moment, we have a number of employees wanting to work at our St Laurence Court Eaglehawk home in Bendigo but are finding it extremely difficult to find affordable places to rent, or are having to commute every day from Melbourne,” she said.
“Fortunately we have some independent living units adjacent to the home which are vacant. For us, the independent living units are an obvious opportunity to provide a short term solution for those employees to continue to work at the residential aged care home while staying next door for a reduced rent.”
Ms Hills explained that the remuneration of aged care workers has long been an issue of contention in the sector.
“The issue was disappointingly not picked up as part of the Federal Government’s $17.7 billion funding response to the recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission,” she said.
“Many of our carers want to work part-time due to other commitments such as caring for family members or raising children.
“But with the challenges of rental affordability, particularly in regional areas, we are struggling to attract and keep really good carers in our aged care homes.
“We believe a guaranteed minimum wage would allow essential service workers, including those in aged care, to continue their important roles and contributions, particularly in areas where rental costs are disproportionately high in relation to their wage.
“It may also open up the market for aged care which is in desperate need of a growing workforce going forward.
“But in the meantime, we will be doing all we can – including repurposing our independent living units – to make it possible for our incredible carers to do their job for the sake of our residents and their loved ones.”