Aged care sector tracking towards ‘worst-case scenario’

Australia’s aged care crisis is worse than feared, the Committee for Economic Development of Australia finds.

Australia’s aged care crisis is worse than feared with the sector facing a shortfall of around 35,000 direct care workers this year alone, according to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia.

CEDA’s latest report – Duty of care: Aged care sector in crisis – finds that the staff shortage has doubled in less than a year, rising from 17,000 to 35,000, with the latest evidence suggesting the sector is tracking towards CEDA’s “worst-case scenarios”. This is due to a double whammy of events: the COVID pandemic and government inaction, say the report’s authors.

“If workforce shortages at this level continue, we will not have enough workers to meet the basic standards of care recommended by the royal commission,” said CEDA senior economist Cassandra Winzar.

Border closures due to COVID, and low pay and poor conditions have exacerbated the decline in staff numbers, said Ms Winzar. “The aged care workforce was already under significant pressure with staff shortages, low pay, poor working conditions and increased negative attention through the royal commission,” she said. “Over the past year, COVID-19 has amplified these pressures.”

Source: Committee for Economic Development of Australia

Among recommendations to stem the staff exodus, the report’s authors suggest:

  • unions, employers and the Federal Government should collaborate to substantially increase award wages in the sector
  • recruit personal care workers directly by adding them to the temporary or permanent skilled-migration lists, or introduce a new essential skills visa
  • industry and governments should develop low-cost retraining options for those returning to the industry to boost skills and attract workers.

Aged care policy priorities ‘difficult to accomplish’

Cassandra Winzar

While the Albanese Government has made commitments to increase care time and fully fund any wage increase decided by the Fair Work Commission, such commitments will be difficult to accomplish without a turnaround in staff numbers, said Ms Winzar.

“Importantly, meeting the goal of an extra 35,000 workers will only get Australian aged care to basic levels of care,” she said. “Filling this shortfall will not be achieved without determined and consistent effort – which must start now.”

The new report updates CEDA’s workforce projections released in August 2021, which had forecast a cumulative staff shortfall of 110,000 workers by 2030. If the situation is not urgently rectified, that figure “will look like a significant underestimate of the workforce shortages facing the sector,” write the report’s authors.   

According to the report, the sector currently needs 8,000 additional workers to meet international best practice standards.

Source: Committee for Economic Development of Australia

In response to CEDA’s findings, interim CEO of provider peak body the Australian & Community Providers Association Paul Sadler said the staff shortage could actually be even worse.

“CEDA says an additional 8,000 workers are needed; we believe it could be close to 20,000,” Mr Sadler said. The new Federal Government will have difficulty achieving its aged care policy priorities “without immediate action,” he added.

However, the situation is not all doom and gloom, write the report’s authors. If the workforce can be rebuilt, wages lifted and conditions improved, the sector could encourage more and more people to the industry.

“By pulling all the available levers we can start to make progress on building the caring workforce that Australia needs to provide the high level of care we all expect for ourselves and our families,” they said.

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Tags: Cassandra Winzar, ceda, covid, workforce,

2 thoughts on “Aged care sector tracking towards ‘worst-case scenario’

  1. I think the Royal Commission may have failed to recognise one significant factor in overhauling the Aged Care industry.

    I’ve been in the industry for more than 5 years, and ever since completing my qualifications to work in the industry, there has been one thing that I have seen that is destroying any good work being done.
    Decision makers need to look at what lays beneath the current environment and encourage change right from the very top.
    They need to consider where aged care was founded and who is now in charge and managing it.
    Aged Care organisations allow nursing staff to progress through the organisation amid a culture of intimidation, bullying, and harassment culture, all swept under the carpet and never exposed.
    Anyone looking into the industry problem need to start talking to staff, not those in charge. They will find their answers and the bottom, not the top as they have done.
    I worked for a large Aged Care organisation who seemed to ignore any issues raised and those that did were marked as trouble makers.

    If my point is not clear, then I will make it clear: stop the disgusting culture of nurses getting the management jobs with no management training except that from those above them who are nurses.

    There needs to be a whole lot of change in management of Aged Care, and even those in government and it’s agencies.
    The problem is big, maybe too big, and only getting bigger for those in positions that can change it. It can be done, it just needs big people to challenge what is…

  2. Reports like this make me angry, stop blaming Covid, the real reason for the shortfall of staff is the mandatory vaccine, my company lost a lot of good dedicated staff due to this mandate, and our clients are missing out on valuable visits, we are declining numerous new clients as we do not have the staff to provide the services. No one ever speaks the truth on the real issues, just skirt around and blame other things.. Let these workers come back to work, so these venerable people can get their quality of life back.

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