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Sector applauds remote aged care workforce accord

Aged care providers have welcomed a unified voice for remote and very remote services.

Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt said the industry-led accord, made up of experienced providers and organisations, recognises the unique challenges of providing care in remote settings and the importance of finding local solutions to attract and retain workers.

The establishment of a remote accord was one of fourteen strategic actions set out in the Aged Care Workforce Taskforce’s recently released blueprint, A matter of care – a strategy for Australia’s aged care workforce.

Taskforce chair Professor John Pollaers wrote: “Workforce issues in remote and very remote areas call for specific and tailored actions, informed by on-the-ground experience.

“A united remote and very remote industry voice is envisaged, with action to engage on workforce issues needing attention and develop pathways for change involving all levels of government, industry and the community.”

Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA) said its members regularly tell the peak of the difficulties they face in recruiting and retaining appropriately trained and skilled staff in remote areas.

“Research undertaken for the Aged Care Workforce Strategy found that being located in a remote area does not only increase the chances of an employer experiencing skill shortages, but also makes the job of resolving them much more difficult,” ACSA chief executive Pat Sparrow said. “Actions to tackle workforce issues in remote and very remote areas call for very specific actions, informed by on-the-ground experience by those who deliver services in these areas.”

The peak added that action to address both financial and workforce issues is still sorely needed. “A recent financial survey by StewartBrown highlights that currently 63.5 per cent of facilities in these areas are reporting losses. This has grown from 56 per cent last year with the number of unviable aged care facilities set to continue to grow.”

The accord group, which is expected to meet at least four times a year, will be chaired by Chris Hall, chief executive of Juniper WA, with Praveen Gopal, from MacDonnell Regional Council in the Northern Territory, acting as deputy chair.

Sparrow said the two worthy appointments were “very experienced in delivering aged care services in remote areas”.

In his report, Pollaers recommended that the government “work with the remote accord to conduct a series of consultations and prepare for discussion a contemporary roadmap for remote aged care funding models, services and infrastructure”.

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