Federal Government delivers on ANMF’s aged care campaign 

4 August 2022

The ANMF’s relentless campaigning to fix aged care is paying off in Canberra with the passage of the new Parliament’s first bill this week and the introduction of other reforms.

The ANMF in South Australia and nationally campaigned long and hard for RNs 24/7, mandated minimum care, transparency and accountability and higher wages. And, on the eve of this Sunday’s Aged Care Employee Day, it looks like the Albanese Government is delivering in spades.

Australia’s 47th Parliament passed its first bill on Tuesday, one which implements nine measures to improve aged care and responds to 17 Aged Care Royal Commission recommendations, including new residential funding, a code of conduct for staff and providers, an independent pricing authority and a star rating system for services.

The bill extends the Serious Incident Response Scheme to all in-home care providers, introduces new governance and reporting responsibilities for approved providers and also extends the functions of the Independent Health and Aged Care Pricing Authority, which will lead to better price-setting for aged care.

Last week the Federal Government also introduced legislation to ensure a Registered Nurse is on-site in every nursing home 24/7 and that all residents receive minimum standards of quality care with a nurse every day. 

The bill, currently before the House of Representatives, also aims to improve transparency across the sector, with greater scrutiny of what providers spend on care, nursing, food, maintenance, cleaning, administration as well as profits.

Sunday’s Aged Care Employee Day is a day we recognise the tireless commitment of aged care workers in ensuring the safety, comfort, health and wellbeing of our 1.3 million older Australians receiving home care or residential care services.

Australians are being invited to post videos on social media to say #ThanksforCaring. For helpful tips on how to produce your Aged Care Employee Day video go to https://agedcareday.com.au/

Aged Care Minister Anika Wells has said the embattled sector is suffering from a “cultural issue’’. 

“The care economy is undervalued, we do not value care workers in our country enough,’’ she said.

“And until they feel that value we are not going to get enough people into the sector.

“So another reason that today’s (Tuesday) bill and the passage of today’s bill as the first bill through the Parliament is so important is that aged care workers out there, both who are still in there and who have left, see that we value them and that we want them to come back.’’

Ms Wells described the bill and her Government’s election commitments as “down payments on the promises we made to the Australian people and today starts that journey’’.

“Aged Care Employee Day is a day to thank the nation’s more than 360,000 aged care staff for the incredibly valuable work they do,’’ ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM said.

“And one of the best ways to make aged care workers feel valued is to reward them appropriately for the critical role they play in caring for our elderly.

“Currently aged care sector staff are woefully underpaid. That is why we and other unions are pushing the case through the Fair Work Commission for a 25 per cent pay rise for all aged care workers.’’ 

The Federal Government is also supporting a pay rise for aged care workers through the Commission, but has not committed to a specific figure. However, Ms Wells says the Government would fund any wage boost.

Ms Wells said Health Department modelling found 869 more nurses were needed to meet the 24/7 nurse requirements.

She said one way of finding those extra nurses was “through pulling every lever”. “I don't shy away from the fact that we have drastic workforce shortages in aged care, so when I speak about 869 additional nurses being the additional nurses, we need to make 24/7 nursing happen by 1 July 2023,’’ she said.

‘We're giving them a pay rise, we're doing our very best to give them a pay rise. We're also looking at all of the things. We're looking at migration, we're looking at improvements to conditions, we're looking at - some of our other election commitments tie into this - the additional fee-free TAFE places, additional university places, creating more pathways.’’

Ms Dabars said it was “very encouraging to see the Government acting to deliver so quickly on its election promises’’.

“This is the kind of action we need to breathe new life and new hope into a sector that has been neglected so terribly for so long,’’ she said.