Many people from aged care workers, to residents to their families have been saying it – we need more people working in aged care.

Now a new senate committee report is saying the same thing too, it was reported that there is “a clear need” for a workforce strategy in light of the “significant growth and change”.

That significant growth and change refers to the increasing ageing population. As the country gets older, Australians are also living longer and are in increasing need of assistance with ageing and health issues.

There initial inquiry was made in response to concerns about staff retention in aged care. Between staff who lack basic skills to challenges with management to low staff ratios, there are currently many issues with staffing in aged care and the needs of the elderly are not being met.

With a thorough investigation of issues facing the aged care sector, the report made a number of recommendations about developing a strategy that addresses current issues.

There were four key themes that were highlighted in the report:

  • the need for improved training so that residents receive the best care possible
  • the need for an integrated sector-wide workforce development strategy
  • the need for further workforce and workplace regulation, ensuring that staff are adequately qualified and that providers are providing the optimum care
  • the particular challenges facing the aged care workforce in remote communities who may not be able to access resources and adequate staffing

In establishing a national aged care workforce strategy, there is a call for an increase of workforce representatives from several different groups. Some have highlighted that there is lack of diverse staff – from cultural diversity to sexual preferences, older Australians entering aged care may not feel completely comfortable with their surroundings.

There is also the issue of staff ratios. As older people today have more complex and greater needs, which is predicted to increase in the future, the committee emphasised the need the introduction of a minimum nursing requirement. There was even a suggestion that providers should publish their staff to client ratios for consumers.

Another focal point in the report was on regional and remote areas as the committee found that in 2013–14, 30 per cent of people in permanent residential aged care were located in rural or remote areas.

It added that those working in rural and regional communities needed to have access to quality training. There is a higher number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples in remote communities who also need more funding, better infrastructure and workforce

The senate report estimated that to accommodate the growing demand for aged care services, the workforce will need to grow by 2 per cent every year for the foreseeable future. However, there is currently no plan on how this will be achieved.

Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt has stated that support was crucial for the sector, “this detailed inquiry highlights the variety of challenges and opportunities in metropolitan and regional aged care and will form part of consideration of this important community issue”.

“The report is timely, and will help feed into the Turnbull government’s Strengthening Aged Care workforce strategy, for which $2 million was announced in the May budget to establish and support an industry lead workforce strategy.

“The taskforce will be required to consult widely within the health and aged care sector, and engage with other sectors, including social services, education and employment.

According to Minister Wyatt, planning is well underway with the taskforce expected to be established in July 2017. There is also the Aged Care Legislated Review, due on 1 August 2017, which is set to help guide ongoing system reform.

“Planning and caring for our ageing population is critical for our future, not only for the wellbeing of older people but also for the job perspectives and career opportunities for young Australians,” he said.

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