Seniors receiving home and community care services are likely to be affected by changes to staff hours, warns peak provider body the Australian & Community Care Providers Association.
From 1 July, aged and disability care providers have had to pay home support workers a minimum of two hours a shift following a review of the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award by the Fair Work Commission – up from a minimum of one hour.
An ACCPA survey found that 90 per cent of home and community care providers have already taken steps to adapt to the change. The survey also showed that almost half of home care providers expect their service fees to rise by up to 20 per cent.
If the Federal Government fails to provide additional funding to cover the increase, the level of care may be compromised, said ACCPA interim chief operating officer Paul Sadler.
“Clients and staff could experience disruption for some months as providers work through solutions,” said Mr Sadler.
In many cases, the new two-hour provision can be accommodated through rostering that allows an aged care worker to move between clients’ homes, he said.
However, when that cannot be guaranteed, ACCPA is seeking a commitment from the government “to adjust how it pays providers to make sure no-one – an older person, an employee or provider – is out of pocket for complying with the changes to the award,” said Mr Sadler.
While Mr Sadler agreed that aged care staff deserve improved pay and better conditions, “It can’t come at the expense of older Australians getting the care they need or to the point where providers have no choice but to cease operating because of the increase in costs and the restriction on their ability to adjust their prices accordingly,” he said.
“These changes must be appropriately funded.”
Advocacy group the Older Persons Advocacy Network is also calling on sector stakeholders to ensure that senior Australians are not adversely affected by the change.
“It is a positive development that aged care workers are receiving more support through recent changes to the industry award, but we must ensure that older people are not worse off,” said OPAN CEO Craig Gear.
Mr Gear said OPAN had already received “distressed calls” from older Australians impacted by the change to SCHADS – which also include a travel and laundry allowance and full pay for a cancelled shift.
Reiterating OPAN’s support for improved conditions for aged care workers, Mr Gear said the changes must be appropriately funded. “This might require additional supplements in rural and remote areas, where there are increased travel time, to cover morning and evening shifts.”
Mr Gear urged service providers to use effective rostering and other solutions to ensure that older people’s needs are met. “The delivery of the two-hour block does not have to be with the same client, and it doesn’t have to be at the same location,” he said. “So it’s up to the providers to find a solution that works best.”