The federal government has teamed with Australia’s largest online workforce platform to provide a temporary surge workforce for providers who lose staff as a result of COVID-19.

Mable was established in 2014 to connect care and support workers with people in the community and has previously linked older Australians and people with disability to support workers under consumer directed care.

Richard Colbeck

It is now opening up its 8,000-strong online workforce to approved residential aged care providers to recruit workers in nursing, allied health and personal care.

Home and CHSP providers, and community services like Meals on Wheels, will also be able to use the platform for domestic help and social services.

CEO Peter Scutt says Mable anticipates expanding it’s community of workers as well as adding volunteers as a category for organisations who rely on unpaid work.

“It’s unclear how much we need to grow the workforce by, we’re going to see how demand transpires during this COVID period and we’ll also be looking at supply and demand as we go forward,” he told Community Care Review.

Mable will also provide online training through its training hub for people who may have been stood down or lost their jobs in other industries such as hospitality or aviation.

Filling gaps

Aged care minister Richard Colbeck says the measure will help fill any gaps that may emerge due to illness, self-isolation or personal caring duties affecting staff.

The Government will pay the costs of eligible approved providers for engaging the workforce through Mable for four weeks, he told Community Care Review.

He stressed Mable will only provide a temporary workforce and providers will have to show they’ve exhausted all other recruitment options.

“If a home care package provider urgently needs a personal care worker to deliver home care services or a residential provider requires a registered nurse and they have been unable to find a resource using their existing channels, they can use this service to get an appropriately skilled person to deliver the services they need for a short time,” Senator Colbeck said.

“This is designed to fill an immediate gap while the aged care provider finds a longer-term solution, which includes staff returning from isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19.”

The surge workforce is among a suite of measures announced by the minister over the weekend, including emergency response teams, remote locums and a grant scheme to reimburse eligible aged care providers for expenditure incurred managing the direct impacts of COVID-19.

Providers won’t be able to claim staff recruited from from the temporary surge workforce from the Aged Care Support Program.

Interest from providers

Mr Scutt says there’s anecdotal evidence that some consumers have been cutting back on services or shifting the sort of support they are getting in response to the pandemic.

But there’s also been interest from providers.

 “Consumers are using Mable but this (arrangement) gives access to providers that may need access to that contingent workforce and we’re starting to see is those inquiries come through,” he said.

“There is an expectation we’ll see more of that inquiry going forward.”

Mr Scutt believes platforms like Mable have an important role to play as the aged care sector confronts the challenges of coronavirus.

“Now more than ever is a time for cooperation and collaboration and putting older Australians and their carers and the people that support them at the forefront,” he says.

“We are an organisation that wants to take a collaborate approach and work with government, providers, communities and families to see if we can reduce the impact of COVID-19 on older Australians.

Meanwhile, Leading Age Services Australia has partnered with Altura Learning to retrain workers displaced from other sectors as temporary care assistants in residential facilities.

Care assistants will be employed by providers to help at meal times, assist people who have problems mobilising and assist with hygiene, bed making and recreational activities, as well as administrative duties.

“Our aged care workforce has already been impacted by COVID-19, with increasing numbers likely to be absent due to quarantine and testing regimes,” CEO Sean Rooney said.

“To maintain care continuity, we’re asking people who may have lost positions in other sectors such as tourism, hospitality, beauty or retail to try out a new and rewarding career.”

The training package takes 10 hours to complete and organisations that employ an aged care assistant will be given support to ensure the provision of high quality, safe services, Mr Rooney says.

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3 Comments

  1. I am pleased the federal government has teamed with Mable to provide a temporary surge workforce for providers who lose staff as a result of COVID-19. I recently interviewed 30 recipients of HCPs who self-manage and access their support workers via Mable’s online platform. Participants were overwhelmingly positive about the support workers they engaged via Mable.
    I am less pleased, however, about Leading Age Services Australia partnering with Altura Learning to retrain workers displaced from other sectors as temporary care assistants in aged care homes. I have concerns about the quality of the training. We know that short courses do not equip staff with the skills necessary to work in an aged care home.
    Has anyone considered training those relatives who visit regularly? I am aware that many relatives are no longer able to assist their loved ones (e.g. feeding, toileting, social engagement). These relatives decreased the workload in many aged care homes. Surely it would be better to train these relatives in infection control than to use inadequately trained staff.

  2. I agree with Dr Russell, baggage handler one day and showering my grand mother the next, I don’t think so. Caring for our elders requires skilled and well trained carers and nurses, not someone who had done a quickie on line course while they wait for their cafe job to start again.

  3. I think there’s a place for people from other industries but context is important. For example, someone working in Housing (NGO) or Retail (think op shops) with vulnerable people may be better equipped as would TAFE Learners or young people studying Community Services or Social Work. It’s after all a short term option, with limited tasks, that offers all sorts of possibilities and opportunities to enter the care sector.

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