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Aged care workforce taskforce members announced

Service providers, academics and heads of education and representative bodies will make up the government’s aged care workforce taskforce, the Minister for Aged Care has revealed.

Funding of $1.9 million over two years for the taskforce was announced in the 2017-18 budget.

Led by Professor John Pollaers, it will be charged with exploring short, medium and longer term options to boost supply, address demand and improve productivity in the sector.

The Minister, Ken Wyatt, said Pollaers brings a combination of business leadership skills and international experience to the table, including participation in industry innovation, with a focus on education, training and skills development.

Wyatt said: “With Australia’s current aged care staffing needs predicted to grow from around 360,000 currently to almost one million by 2050, workforce issues are vital to the quality ongoing care of older Australians.”

The taskforce will place particular emphasis on:

  • Workforce planning covering workforce size and structure, managing growth and changes in service requirements, mix of occupations, workforce roles and distinct workforce needs in different care settings and market catchments.
  • Supply and retention of the right workers with the right aptitudes in the right locations and securing and sustaining up-to-date skills.
  • The capacity of providers as employers, and the role of sector leadership, to equip the workforce to meet service requirements, needs and expectations of quality of care and services.
  • Building sector-wide capabilities to innovate and extend new ways of working tailored to the needs of the older people who use aged care services, their families, carers and communities.

Pollaers said the taskforce would concentrate on the imperatives that drive current and projected workforce needs.

“Aged care is an industry that matters, and our work will be underpinned by a fundamental understanding of the needs of the consumer now and into the future,” he said.

Wyatt said while everything was on the table, there are only two things that matter — safety and quality.

The 12-member taskforce includes the chief executives of Hammondcare, Blue Cross and Rural Health West, as well as Pat Sparrow of Aged & Community Services Australia and Ian Yates of COTA Australia.

Dr Michele Bruniges, secretary of the Department of Education and Training and acting deputy secretary of the Department of Health Catherine Rule will make up the government presence on the taskforce, while leaders from the University of Western Australia, Swinburne University, the CSIRO’s Data61, and Dementia Training Australia and the Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre will serve as representatives of education and research.

No worker representatives

The lack of representation for the aged care workforce in the line up drew ire from the Opposition.

The Shadow Minister for Ageing and Mental Health, Julie Collins, called it a deliberate snub. Collins said the absence of unions undermines the legitimacy of the taskforce.

“The aged care workforce is expected to increase by 300 per cent in the next 30 years to provide for our ageing population, but without workers at the table it is hard to see how this taskforce will provide any genuine outcomes,” she said.

The concern was echoed by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF). This morning, the union phoned Wyatt’s office and Pollaers to express its disappointment and raise concerns that worker representatives have been shut out.

Assistant federal secretary Annie Butler said: “A wide range of stakeholders, from providers, consumer and interest groups, through to academics, have been invited to sit on the taskforce, but the ANMF or other representatives of the aged care workforce have been ignored.”

In a communique announcing the makeup of the taskforce, Wyatt said it will be expected to engage and consult widely to ensure all points of view are heard and considered.

He said: “The taskforce will reach out to senior Australians and their families, consumer organisations, informal carers, aged care workers and volunteers. It will also consult with many others including unions, health professionals, universities and the health, education, employment and disability sectors.”

But Butler said the decision to exclude workforce representatives on the taskforce was a major insult for hard-working nurses and carers in the sector. “It’s inconceivable that the government has set-up a taskforce to investigate workforce issues and plan a future workforce strategy without nurses and carers.

“Nurses and carers working on the frontline in aged care are best placed to advise on what is required to ensure proper, safe care is provided to elderly nursing home residents.

“They are the ones that fully understand the complex conditions of the frail aged, the skills that are required to attend to these conditions and how many staff that takes.”

Still, Butler said, as always, the ANMF will work constructively with all stakeholders as part of its commitment to fix the crisis in aged care.

The taskforce is scheduled to report to Wyatt by 30 June 2018.

Its members are:

Chair – Professor John Pollaers
Dr Michele Bruniges – secretary of the Department of Education and Training, Australian Government
Dr Penny Flett – pro vice chancellor of University of Western Australia
Dr Stephen Judd – chief executive of Hammondcare
Professor Linda Kristjanson – vice-chancellor of Swinburne University
Alan Lilly – chief executive of Blue Cross
Professor Andrew Robinson – co-director of Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre, Tasmania, and director of Dementia Training Australia
Catherine Rule – acting deputy secretary of the Department of Health, Australian Government
Tim Shackleton – chief executive of Rural Health West
Pat Sparrow – chief executive of Aged & Community Services Australia
Dr Adrian Turner – chief executive of Data61, CSIRO
Ian Yates – chief executive of Council on the Ageing

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