HelloCare Exclusive – This is the final article in a series of 4. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

The Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce will deliver its findings in a report to the Minister for Aged Care, the Hon Ken Wyatt, this week.

The strategy includes pragmatic actions to better support the workforce in their essential role of caring for older Australians.

In my first article for HelloCare readers, I explained the Taskforce’s community consultations, strategies to address negative stigmas attached to ageing, and developing an industry code of practice.

In the second article, I looked at the Taskforce’s proposals to develop new career pathways in the rapidly evolving and expanding aged care sector.

And in the third article I looked at implementing industry standards for workforce planning, better integration between primary, acute care and aged care, and establishing a Remote Accord to support the special needs of the aged care workforce in remote communities.

This final article is about creating mechanisms for industry, government and the community to get together to enable real change to the system.

Transitioning the workforce to new standards

Bringing about sustained change requires strong leadership from industry; cultural changes require visible industry leadership with a unified voice.

The taskforce is recommending the establishment of an Aged Services Industry Council to provide the strategic leadership necessary to implement key aspects of the workforce strategy.

The Council would consist of provider CEOs from each of the three industry peak bodies – ACSA, the Aged Care Guild, and LASA – as well as unaligned provider groups. Cross-industry sub-committees would also be established.

One of the first priorities of the Council would be to establish a voluntary code of practice to drive cultural change (see Part 1 for more information about the Code).

The Council would also liaise with the new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission , and would be expected to establish a leadership group to design and oversee initiatives and implement key aspects of the workforce strategy. The council would also promote the voluntary code of practice to providers and develop good practice guidance material to explain the application of the code and support its adherence. The Council would establish a complaints capability and work closely with the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner to establish protocols and processes for both complaint handling and information sharing.

Ministerial Council

While there are some aspects of the workforce strategy that industry can take the lead on, others will require a concerted effort by government.

If we are sincere in our desire to put the quality of life of consumers at the heart of the aged care system, we need real change in the way we as a nation organise and fund aged care.

I see a pressing need for a cross-jurisdictional Ministerial discussion, to bring together all levels of government to align care around consumers. The continuum of care, across the system, needs a whole-of-government commitment so we can address issues like funding and ease of access to services.

We know that most people prefer to stay in their homes for as long as possible. We all need to work together so this is a reality for more people, and so that those caring for the elderly – families, carers, trusted entities – are better supported in the valuable role they play.

Aged care needs to be part of a national conversation. We need all levels of government, industry and the wider community to be part of that conversation if we are to bring about transformative change.

Establishing an Aged Care Industry Growth and Research Translation Centre

We can also improve the quality of care by making better use of innovative products and services.

An Aged Care Centre for Growth and Translational Research would support the translation and uptake of innovations to drive improvements in aged care service delivery and workforce capability. It would formalise collaborations between end users, researchers, investors and workforce educators to help take research from conception to market.

The Centre would be a research eco-system that would help ensure research is needs-based and outcomes focussed, and provide a single voice on funding priorities. It would leverage public-private investment, ensure effective knowledge transfer and attract private investment into aged care research.

…and finally

I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the development of the workforce strategy. We now have an entire program for execution, which is executable within three years, and sets the industry up for the next 4-7 years. With the workforce strategy, and a concerted effort by industry, government and the wider community, we can deliver the transformational change required to bring together a unified industry, with one voice, to achieve a common goal – caring for the aged.

Aged Care. How we care is a reflection of who we are.

By Professor John Pollaers OAM.

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