Jobs Summit: Call for personal care workers to be added to migration list

Catholic Health Australia (CHA), Uniting NSW.ACT and UnitingCare Australia are using the second day of the Jobs & Skills Summit to call for the addition of personal care workers to the skilled migration occupation list as an immediate way of plugging the gap in the aged care workforce.

A CHA study found there was almost 60,000 vacancies in the aged care sector alone, of which 45,000 are qualified aged care workers. Other research by Complispace suggests half of those currently employed will leave the sector in the next three years.

Peak advocacy body CHA represents Catholic not-for-profit aged care providers while Uniting NSW.ACT is one of the largest providers of aged care in the country – both are in attendance at the Jobs & Skills summit.

They are appealing to Immigration Minister Andrew Giles and making the case to delegates at today’s Jobs & Skills Summit, which will wind up later this afternoon.

Updated 2nd Sept, 3.20 pm (AEST): Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neill announced on day two of the Jobs & Skills Summit that the Government would boost the annual migrant intake from 160,000 to 195,000 people.

$36.1 million investment to employ an additional 500 staff to expedite visa processing.

The addition of a new classification to the skilled migration list is at the top of the list of CHA’s five-point plan and is one that could be done immediately they say.

CHA CEO Pat Garcia said: “Adding personal care workers to the skilled migration list could really help plug the gap in the aged care workforce. When there are almost 60,000 vacancies in aged care right now this is something that Government can do and do it quickly.

“There is no doubt that we have more work to do to attract and retain our domestic aged care workers but bringing in workers from countries that have an existing relationship with Australia will help alleviate what is a workforce crisis.”

Uniting NSW.ACT Director of Seniors Services, Saviour Buhagiar, said: “Skilled migration of personal care workers must sit alongside fully funded increases to pay and improvement in training, plus fast-tracking of nurse migration to address the immediate crisis.“

Uniting shared with Inside Ageing a list of the main items and proposed solutions that they are tabling at the summit:

  1. 7% wage uplift for aged care workers, funded by Govt. Announce it today as a down payment on the FWC case we know is coming.
  2. Disrupt employment service providers. Support big employers like Uniting to work with the people we already provide community services to – people who are dislocated from paid work – and link them up with the care economy jobs we are struggling to fill and provide wrap-around supports so the jobs placements are durable.
  3. Open up migration to lower-skilled groups like carers. At least in the short term while we have a workforce crisis.
  4. Change Govt contracting cycles to 5-10 year min so people can be employed permanently and clients will get the stability of service provision.
  5. Free up carers to hold hands not pens by incentivising investment in technology and automatic data collection.
  6. Expose more potential employees to the wonderful work available in the care economy by stopping talking the sector down, having high school programs, uni placements, graduate programs and HECs discounts

“The workforce crisis in aged care is very real. We have 10% vacancy rates across our operations, about 1000 of them in aged care. After the work our people have done during the pandemic to keep seniors safe, we cannot keep asking them to work double shifts and struggle to fill rosters. We need the boost to our workforce that including personal care workers in the migration list will deliver”, Mr Buhagiar added.


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