Australia’s aged care nurses and workers are celebrating after the Federal Government unveiled a 10-year plan to reshape the aged care sector, including a $1.2 billion injection to tackle critical workforce shortages.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced a $3.7 billion plan to overhaul the beleaguered sector, with $1.2 billion to be spent on attracting, retaining and training aged care workers.
A Workforce Compact between the government, unions and aged care providers will also be established to guarantee that aged care workers receive competitive wages.
The Australian Nursing Federation has applauded the reforms.
ANF federal secretary Lee Thomas said the announcement was a victory for low paid nursing and aged care staff.
Ms Thomas said the funds would go towards higher wages,
better career structures, improved training and education and workforce planning.
“This is the largest investment in Australia’s aged care workforce and is a significant victory for the sector’s underpaid nursing and care staff,” she said.
“We are confident this extra funding will now assist in closing the wages gap for aged care workers and results in more nurses being attracted and retained in the sector.
“Currently, nurses in aged care are being paid between $168 and $300 a week less than their colleagues in public hospitals – with a critical shortage of 20,000 nurses.”
Under the reforms, the number of home care packages will be increased from 59,876 to 99,669, there will be more payment choice and a cap on care costs, along with an increase in residential aged care places from 191,522 to 221,103.
Other highlights of the Living Longer Living Better plan include $1.9 billion to deliver better access to aged care services, $80.2 million to improve aged care linkages with the health system, $54.8 million to support carers, $268.4 million to tackle the nation’s dementia epidemic and $192 million to support the diverse care of Australia’s ageing population.
A new My Aged Care website and national call centre will also be established next year, in a bid to develop an online integrated information and assessment entry point into the sector.