Time and time again at the Aged Care Royal Commission hearings this week workers, experts, academics, unions and peak bodies raised the issue of understaffing. The Commission’s week of hearings on workforce comes on the heels of numerous reports and reviews from the past years also highlighting the problem of understaffing.

The issues raised at the workforce hearings confirmed the findings of the largest ever survey of aged care workers released on Monday morning. Responses from nearly 5,000 workers revealed a workforce straining under chronic understaffing, crushing workloads and increasingly complex care needs.

And nothing but silence on the serious implications of understaffing – for both elderly Australians in care and the workers that care for them – from Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck. The Federal Government needs to be condemned for continually failing to act on national reports and recommendations to fix the chronic staff shortages in the sector.

Janice Hilton, United Voice delegate and home care worker in NSW, said, “A lot of people need a bit more social support, which isn’t happening. I go into people’s places, and I might only be there for one hour, and that’s all they see for two weeks.

“Clients get upset when care workers are getting chopped and changed about and they have to show the new person where everything is. The system is very broken. It’s not working for the carer or the client.”

Lavina Luboya, United Voice leader and residential care worker in WA and the youngest worker to appear at the Royal Commission, said, “I really like what I’m doing but I’m not sure about the future. I’m considering other options because I am always exhausted after my shifts. My back and shoulders are always sore. I worry that if I injure my back while I am young, I won’t be able to get a job after that.

“A lot of the people I work with are older than me and they tell me to ‘get out’ and ‘save your back’. If there were more staff and better equipment, I might stay in aged care.”

Carolyn Smith, United Voice’s National Director of Aged Care says, “The week of Royal Commission hearings on workforce is further evidence that our aged care sector can’t wait for the Royal Commission to report at the end of next year, the Government must take urgent action on funding and understaffing.

“There has not been a whisper from the Aged Care Minister on any of these serious issues raised across the week.

“The evidence heard this week confirms our survey findings, with aged care worker participants across Australia raising the issues of chronic understaffing and crushing workloads. Aged care workers are being put in positions where they are unable to provide the standards of care that they would like to give residents.

“Urgent reforms need to fund well-trained, professional and properly paid staff.

“United Voice calls for Minister Richard Colbeck to come out of hiding. He must restore funding to aged care cut by the Coalition Government and increase funding that is tied directly to staffing levels.”

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