Aged care is in the spotlight, with a Royal Commission just starting.

But aged care has been in the spotlight for some time in relation to abuse and the quality of patient care. The aged care workforce has been a focus too.

What’s coming?

The Royal Commission began its hearings in Adelaide in February 2019. Its terms of reference are on the Commission’s website and are quite broad.  They are concerned with the quality of services and how these might best be delivered in accessible, affordable, sustainable and more innovative ways. One of the other issues examined will also be any required “investment in the aged care workforce.” The Commission’s hearings will be held around Australia from March to December 2019 and the process will also include taking submissions as well as producing publications . No publications yet, but maybe keep your eyes on that via the Commission website?

Where have we come from?

The Productivity Commission produced a report in 2011, entitled “Caring for older Australians”. The site contains the inquiry report site – which includes an overview report and access to the many submissions. The Productivity Commission also proposed a number of reforms. It will be interesting to look at what was put forward then, and compare those with what the Royal Commission comes up with!

In relation to the formal care workforce, they proposed “improving employment conditions and training”. They also noted that the quality of aged care training delivered by registered training organisations was variable, and recommended an independent review of the delivery and outcomes of aged care related VET courses by registered training organisations to ensure that “appropriate minimum standards are applied in the delivery of accredited aged care courses and that students demonstrate the appropriate competencies.”

The inquiry gave rise to ASQA’s strategic review of training for aged and community care in 2013. What ASQA found was that training programs were largely too short and included insufficient time in a workplace for satisfactory skills development; RTOs delivering high-quality training programs faced unfair competition from those RTOs offering cheap and unrealistically short training programs and finally “most RTOs offering aged and community care training struggle with appropriate assessment.” (As an aside, the same sorts of things were found in the audit of the Certificate IV TAE, too!!)

More recent activity on the aged care workforce

In late 2017 an independent aged care workforce strategy taskforce was established, chaired by Professor John Pollaers,  in order to “develop a strategy for growing and sustaining the workforce providing aged care services and support for older people, to meet their care needs in a variety of settings across Australia.” The taskforce undertook a consultation and engagement process and has developed a range of resources that can be accessed here. These include an inquiry report published in mid 2018, and an ‘at a glance’ proposing fourteen strategic actions.

Let’s look at a few of the strategic actions put forward by that taskforce. Amongst other things, they have proposed is a voluntary industry code of conduct and reframing the qualification and skills framework to address current and future competencies and skills requirements:

“based on two interrelated building blocks – job architecture, including job design, job roles, progression and related competencies; and modernising and realigning vocational training [and so it is also] linked to higher education, along with additional support for on-the-job and non-formal learning.”

They also propose defining new career pathways “linked with reframed qualifications and skills, recognising competencies, creating new and moving to longer career paths and an industry standard for worker and volunteer accreditation” as well as “implementing new attraction and retention strategies for the workforce” and improving the training and recruitment practices for the Australian Government aged care workforce. They also recommend focusing “on the current funding and related innovation challenges for the industry”, including staff remuneration.

Finally, they proposed an Aged Services Industry Council made up of industry chief executive officers (CEOs) that would establish the voluntary code of practice and implement a transformation program.

So, if nothing else, the new Royal Commission already has plenty of grist for its mill!