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No plan for how to grow aged care workforce to meet demand as the population ages, senate committee finds

A Senate Committee report that investigated the issues facing the aged care sector in developing its workforce in the face of an ageing population, particularly in regional and remote areas, has been tabled in the Senate.

“I initiated the senate inquiry into the aged care sector workforce because we were overwhelmingly being told that the sector was struggling to retain staff, let alone meet the needs of staff required for our ageing population”, Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert and Community Affairs References Committee chair said today.

“There is a clear need for a workforce strategy and I'm pleased that the Government has announced funding to assist in the development of such a strategy. The committee makes a number of recommendations about what that strategy needs to address.

“There are a myriad of issues that need to be addressed, obviously the ageing population is an issue in itself but also the increasing diversity in that population, more complex health needs, technological change, workforce and workplace regulation and impacts of other sectors such as the NDIS.

“It is very obvious that low wages and lack of career paths is a major disincentive to recruiting staff, there are also very significant issues around training for the aged care sector with significant improvements made.

“A lack of diverse staff means that there is a lack of cultural sensitivity and LGBTI elderly Australians may not feel completely at ease or comfortable in their aged care facility. In their final years, all older Australians deserve to be comfortable and happy regardless of where they live.

“The committee also emphasised the need for the Government to examine the introduction of a minimum nursing requirement, recognising that older Australians entering residential aged care now have more complex and greater needs, and that this trajectory will continue. This must occur in close consultation with stakeholders and experts in this space.

“There are specific issues in providing aged care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples in remote communities with changes needed to address these, including funding, infrastructure and workforce. It is also obvious that Consumer Directed Care is problematic in remote communities and the approach needs to be reviewed.

“There is also a lack of structure in place to encourage nurses and aged care staff out to the regions, the committee has recommended that Government work with the aged care industry to develop scholarships that encourage staff out to remote regions, whilst developing a specific strategy to support regional and remote aged care workers”.

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