One in two aged care workers intends to quit the industry in Australia, a new survey reveals.

The survey canvassed 1,110 aged care workers – 14 per cent of whom work in both residential and home care. The findings – commissioned by aged service consultants CompliSpace – feature in the third annual Aged Care Workforce Report, which shows up to 139,000 aged care workers are planning to leave the industry in the next three years due to low pay and overwork – including 64,000 people within the next 12 months.

Its findings also show staff are sceptical that the Albanese Government can deliver its ambitious reform agenda.

“Even with the new change in government, I feel it will just continue as is, with very little change on the ground level,” said home care worker Christine Sutton, who is quoted in the report.

Having passed a suite of legislative measures, the government has pledged to introduce more laws into parliament later during 2022 to improve the quality of care for older Australians.

The government has also committed to funding a 25 per cent wage increase if approved by the Fair Work Commission – expected to report later this year, or early 2023.

However, almost half of the aged care workforce (47 per cent) believes that a pay rise of more than that amount is needed if workers are to remain in the industry.

“The 25 per cent pay increase would simply be the very minimum that they should do. You do not stay in this industry for the money,” said Ms Sutton.

A First Step

Asked about addressing staff shortages in the sector, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the first thing to do was to stop people leaving the sector. “And a government that is concerned to actually lift up aged care and to lift up the care that’s given to our older Australians, to allow them to live with the dignity and respect that they deserve, is a first step,” Mr Albanese said.

“Because we know that people are leaving the industry. And the advice there is that if you move to a better system, then that will help to alleviate the shortages which are there.”

“We need a plan for the immediate short term.”

Responding to the report’s findings, general manager of policy and advocacy at the Aged & Community Care Providers Association Tim Hicks said the survey reinforces what its members are saying about the pressure the aged case system is under.

The sector needs a “practical and realistic plan” to recruiting more staff who recognise the difficulties providers are experiencing he says – and one that avoids adding to the challenges that staff are already facing.

Hicks says any workforce plan for aged care also needs to urgently address home care, “where new clients are already being turned away because the providers cannot find enough staff.”

Among the survey’s other key findings:

  • 45 per cent of workers have lost half or more of their management team in the last 12 months. This includes 11 per cent of workers who have lost their entire management team within the last year
  • 78 per cent include stress in their top three reasons for leaving
  • 89 per cent ranked relationships with residents and families in their top three reasons for staying
  • 90 per cent of aged care workers say the addition of new staff over the next 12 months would be “very beneficial”
  • 84 per cent of workers anticipate the aged care homes they work for will need to make major changes to systems and processes to cope with regulatory changes
  • 38 per cent of aged care workers describe new staff as unprepared and in need of extra training/supervision to prevent risk to residents.

“The training that is offered to us has not changed in over 15 years. It is not tailored to home care needs,” said Ms Sutton. “New staff coming in are not adequately prepared for their jobs and are set up to fail.”

South Australian general manager in home care Jacene S also quoted in the report agrees. “What I see now is people coming in without training but also without the soft skills needed to hit the ground running,” she said. “On top of that, you have the government saying that you need to be compliant with all these new regulations. The industry expectations seem to have become ‘you need to be a jack of all trades as well as a specialist in everything.’”

Meanwhile, in a state-by-state breakdown, it was found that:

  • Tasmanians are the most sceptical about the government’s aged care agenda, with almost half (46 per cent) convinced that the reforms recommended by the royal commission will never happen
  • 65 per cent of Victorian aged care workers are convinced the proposed mandatory 215 minutes care time per resident per day is impossible to achieve
  • 59 per cent of Tasmanian workers have lost half or more of their management team in the last year, including 17 per cent who have lost their entire management team.