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Slew of aged care workers plan to leave the sector: survey

Attrition is a key player in the aged care sector’s future workforce woes and a new survey has shown why.

The survey of 5,000 workers revealed more than one third (38 per cent) plan to leave the aged care sector within five years.

Australian Community Research (ACR) director Karen Luscombe said workers are getting less job satisfaction.

“They want to deliver quality care but can only deliver basic levels of care when they are so hard pressed,” Luscombe said. “It’s leading to the concerning situation of worker burnout with experienced staff planning to leave the sector.”

Overwork due to understaffing and stressful aspects of the job were two of the key factors residential care workers deemed important in deciding whether to continue working in the industry, while home care workers cited pay and stress as playing a crucial role in whether they’d look for work elsewhere.

The findings on intention to leave are slightly up on a 2016 survey of the aged care workforce, which found a third of residential workers and a quarter of community workers were planning to leave the sector within the next five years.

Those who participated in the 2016 National Aged Care Workforce Census and Survey voiced issues with high workloads and time pressures.

A report on the findings from The University of Adelaide read: “Concerns around workloads, staff numbers and skill mixes, the psychological and physical toil of aged care work, and working conditions were commonly expressed and could form the focus of future strategies at both an organisational and sector level to improve retention in the workforce.”

Among the other key findings of the ACR survey were that three quarters of respondents said they’d seen a reduction in staff on the floor in the past two years and that 94 per cent don’t have enough time to talk to residents in their care.

United Voice assistant secretary and aged care director Carolyn Smith called the survey responses heartbreaking. “Workers and those in their care deserve so much better,” Smith said. “These workers can’t wait for the Royal Commission to report; they need a workforce strategy and investment now.”

HSU National president Gerard Hayes said the figures were not surprising.

“Federal budget cuts have eroded the sector’s margins. Our members often report anecdotes of five dollar a day food budgets or rationing of sanitary pads,” Hayes said.

“Critically important jobs in the sector such as cleaning and catering are being outsourced to shonky operators who steal employee wages.

“There is simply no fat in this sector, the government has sawed into bone.”

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