The head of a major Australian aged care provider has warned workforce shortages and underfunding are exhausting staff and driving the sector into an “untenable standstill”.
The BaptistCare NSW and ACT chief executive, Charles Moore, has issued a plea to whichever party forms government to act immediately to improve aged care funding, warning the current pressures are unsustainable and are hitting vulnerable residents as well as staff.
“Workforce shortages are exhausting our staff and many hard-working people in the sector are barely able to keep up with the cost of living, with inflation rising to a point that’s more than twice the rate of wages growth,” he said.
“Our sector is underfunded and falling into an untenable standstill. It’s impacting both our workers and the most vulnerable in our society, and voters are seeing this too.”
BaptistCare on Monday released polling it commissioned on voters’ attitudes to aged care funding and staff pay, conducted by YouGov. It found Australians ranked aged care workers behind only hospital workers in terms of who should be paid the highest.
The overwhelming majority of voters said there were important actions the incoming government should take with respect to the aged care sector, with increasing funding the most important, according to the poll.
Almost half of those polled said they had become less confident in the aged care sector in the past 12 months, and 83% said policies on aged care would be important in shaping their vote. There was also some confusion among voters about who is responsible for funding aged care. Only one in three believed the aged care system was majority funded by government, and 52% said they were unsure of the level of government funding given to the sector.
“It’s critical for our new government to commit to resolving the systemic issues in aged care, however the scale of the investment needed may come as a shock to many in the community,” Moore said. “With aged care almost wholly government funded, this data shows a significant gap in the community’s understanding of the significant role that government plays in a sector that’s currently on its knees.”
Moore said BaptistCare was eager to work with the new government to resolve the sector’s issues, but said it was up to government to “future-proof the sector with increased funding that ensures our nation’s aged care workers are receiving fair financial recognition for the critical care they provide”.
The Fair Work Commission last week began hearings into whether Australia’s aged care workforce should receive a 25% pay rise, to bring their pay into parity with disability and hospital workers.
Meanwhile, aged care workers across the country have voted to take industrial action over acute staff shortages and continuing low rates of pay. The United Workers Union says the mood mood for strike action prior to the election is “very strong”.