The need for change
Australia’s population is ageing rapidly, consumer expectations about the quality of aged care services is increasing, and in the current climate, visible leadership and funding transparency will be critical.
Aged care has implemented significant reforms over the past decade, driven in large part in response to the 2011 Productivity Commission inquiry report Caring for older Australians.
The aged care industry is part of Australia’s broad and rapidly growing health care and social assistance industry and a significant contributor to regional and rural economies. It operates across residential care, home care and community-based care, and interfaces with services provided through the health system and disability and social supports.
However, evidence detailed in A Matter of Care suggests that there are considerable challenges within the industry associated with:
- high employee turnover, including significant movement between organisations
- poor employee engagement and enablement
- difficulty in attracting talent
- ineffective and inefficient design of work organisation and jobs
- undervalued jobs with poor market positioning
- suboptimal workforce planning
- casualisation of the workforce, particularly in home-based care
- leadership effectiveness gaps
- key capability gaps and skills and competencies misalignment
- career progression bottlenecks
- ineffective recruitment, induction and on-boarding processes.
The current composition of the workforce suggests that the industry will need to attract greater numbers of new and younger workers.
A greater emphasis on successful workforce planning, training and development and a more positive industry image will reduce staff turnover and retain employees, especially those with the necessary skills, expertise and personal attributes to deliver high-quality aged care services.
Rebuilding the evidence base
Both aged care and disability services lack sector-wide career structures, lack of nationally agreed standards and deficiencies in workforce data – making it difficult to analyse the composition of the current workforce, and determine how that workforce may need to develop and adjust to meet future needs.
The Council considers workforce data inadequacies needs to be addressed as a priority, in order to have complete and accurate information concerning workforce trends and needs into the future.
Current and proposed approaches to aged care workforce data capture, analysis and forecasting are sub-optimal and processes are unnecessarily poor quality, manual and duplicative.
We will always be evidence-led
Having a solid evidence base is essential for those seeking to re-shape workplace culture.
Providing aggregated information at the national level has been the predominant analysis and forecasting method for aged care.
Data aggregation fails to differentiate regional, rural and remote locations from metropolitan areas, obscuring the distinctive and unique challenges of non-metropolitan locations.
Policy and program settings need a greater level of granularity for successful implementation. They need information that can be acted on.
Building an industry-wide capability to undertake sensitivity analyses to gain an increased understanding of staff sentiment and localised uncertainties and opportunities is particularly important. Facilitating better connections between health and aged care datasets across governments and providers would be beneficial to workforce planning.
The persistent pressures facing providers of care services – such as increased competition, changing community demands, and problems in securing a sufficient supply of workers – might be enhanced through greater innovation in how the care workforce is utilised, across jurisdiction, policy and sector divides.
The Council will continue to advocate to government for a dedicated investment in modern technology and infrastructure to better collect, analyse, interpret, share and report across data sources (securely), in order to develop shared measurement systems and reporting capability.
In recognising the realities of the current funding environment, we have identified committed but unexpended funds for laboursome and manual processes data collection processes, which could be redirected.