When Labor announced it would subsidise higher wages for childcare workers, it put pay rises for low-pay sectors, such as aged care, on the agenda. But Labor has quickly stepped in to hose down speculation it would extend the pay rises to aged care workers, at least until after the findings of the royal commission are handed down.
Bill Shorten announced this week that if elected, the Labor party will spend $10 billion to boost childcare workers’ pay by 20 per cent.
He said Labor had “picked childcare workers to go first”, raising speculation that pay rises could be on the cards for other sectors.
His comments led advocates for other low pay sectors, including aged care and disability services, to call for similar increases.
Labor will wait for royal commission
But Mr Shorten has doused hopes that Labor will also boost aged care workers’ pay, saying they will wait until after the royal commission to make changes, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.
“Let’s see what the royal commission produces,” he said.
Mr Shorten praised the work of aged care staff, and said the sector does need greater investment.
“I want to pay a compliment to our aged-care workers,” he said.
“They do a lot of work with a lot of vulnerable people. I think that we need to invest more in aged care generally, but I think let’s have the royal commission.”
Don’t wait to increase funding, expert says
Council of the Ageing chief executive, Ian Yates AM, told HelloCare it has been well established that aged care workers are underpaid and that the sector as a whole is underfunded.
The Aged Care Workforce Taskforce found aged care nurses are 10 per cent underpaid, and care workers are underpaid by 15 per cent. Aged care staff also suffer from lack of career development, and lack of training, Mr Yates said. Wages are low, he said, because aged care is a predominantly female workforce and it is serving a vulnerable population.
Mr Yates said aged care costs are relatively fixed, and funding to the sector has to increase, including funding for wages.
“It’s time both sides of government recognise we need a quantum jump in funding,” he said.
Mr Yates said both sides of government are aware that funding must increase, and could embark on higher funding before the royal commission findings are handed down.
Aged care as important as education: LASA
Leading Aged Services Australia CEO, Sean Rooney, earlier this week issued a statement saying that neither side of politics is paying enough attention to aged care.
“Aged care is just as important as health and education. But yet again, it seems our older Australians are being forgotten,” he said.
Mr Rooney said the government had announced the royal commission because it said it is committed to protecting the dignity of older Australians in care, and as a way of recognising the enormous contribution that older Australians have made to the nation.
Mr Rooney said Labor had welcomed the Royal Commission.
But so far in this campaign, Mr Ronney said, “both parties have been silent”.
Home care waiting list 130,000, 42% facilities operating at a loss
“Their silence is alarming because we’ve heard nothing about what’s happening for the nearly 130,000 older Australians on the home care waiting list, only silence about the 42 per cent of residential care facilities operating at a loss, and nothing about investing in the aged care workforce,” Mr Rooney said.
“Older Australians and those that care for them deserve real vision and commitment from the next government of this country and they and their loved ones have a right to know where the parties stand on aged care before they head to the ballot box.”
LASA: 14 May a ‘national day of action’ for aged care
LASA has put forward a series of ‘policy solutions’ for aged care in its’ I Care for Aged Care’ plan, and is calling on Australians to ask that all political parties and candidates commit to making the aged care system better.
LASA is also encouraging aged care providers, staff, clients, and local communities to take part in a national day of action for aged care on Tuesday 14 May “to let their local candidates know that aged care is an issue of national importance,” Mr Rooney said.