The calls from Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), the voice of aged care, for more staff, better skills and appropriate remuneration in aged care have been reflected by Counsel Assisting’s recommendations to Royal Commissioners.

Commenting on recommendations put to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety today, LASA CEO Sean Rooney said achieving more staff, with overall improved qualifications was a top priority for the care of older Australians.

“Our dedicated workforce is the lifeblood of care and we need more staff who are valued, supported and accountable,” he said. “Having more nurses also responds to the rising complexity of residents’ needs.

“We agree with Counsel Assisting’s observation that realising more staff in aged care is not possible under the current funding system.

“The problem is that the average aged care operator struggles to cover their current costs at existing funding levels. We have long advocated for funding for good quality care be linked to cost of delivering good quality care, including a reasonable financial margin, to maintain viability.”

Today, Counsel Assisting, Peter Rozen, put to the Commissioners that aged care should have:

  1. Mandatory minimum staffing levels
  2. Registered Nurses on duty for every shift, with occasional exceptions
  3. Quarterly public disclosure of staffing levels by providers
  4. Minimum qualification requirements for personal care workers at Certificate III level, and a range of other changes to qualifications, plus a national care staff registry
  5. A social change campaign to encourage respect for the care profession and attract more staff
  6. The Federal Government as a steward for care

“The key change here is the recommendation for a 25 per cent plus increase in staffing. The need for more funding to support more staff is something that the sector has long argued for,” Mr Rooney said.

“Achieving the best quality care is paramount and we note that more staff can only be implemented with adequate funding.

“At the same time, we proposed in our submission to the Royal Commission that staffing numbers be aligned to ‘if not, why not’ benchmarks that are a better alternative to a mandated minimum staff to resident ratio.  We believe this approach warrants further attention.”

‘If-not-why-not’ benchmarks provide guidance on staffing for a given mix of residents’ care needs and models of care, and would require aged care providers to explain any deviations from the benchmark.

“While inputs provide important context for understanding and interpreting performance data, delivering the best outcomes for older Australian’s receiving care is what matters,” Mr Rooney said.

“The Royal Commission has emphasised the value of innovative care models, however inflexible ratios may make that more difficult.”

LASA will examine what today’s recommendations mean for the proposals on program design put forward in the Royal Commission’s recent consultation paper.

Counsel assisting acknowledged the need for a different approach to home care but it is still unclear what the distinction between home care and residential care would be under the Royal Commission’s proposal for setting agnostic, across-the-board funding.

The idea of centrally mandated ratios and proposals for individualised assessment and funding also present some possible challenges.

“LASA supports increases in overall staffing levels in aged care facilities and our sector tells us they want more staff, who are well-skilled and well-paid,” Mr Rooney said.

“But we need more funding to achieve this goal.”

A recent independent report showed more than 50 per cent of residential care providers lost money in the first quarter of this financial year, rising to 65 per cent in regional areas.

About Leading Age Services Australia (LASA)

LASA is the national association for all providers of age services across residential care, home care and retirement living/seniors housing. Our purpose is to enable high performing, respected, and sustainable age services that support older Australians to age well by providing care, support and accommodation with quality, safety and compassion – always.

We represent providers of age services of all types and sizes located across Australia’s metropolitan, regional and rural areas. Consistent with the overall industry profile, 56% of our Members are not-for-profit providers, 36% are for-profit providers and 8% are government providers.

Our diverse and representative membership gives LASA the ability to speak with credibility and authority on issues of importance to older Australians and the age services industry.

Contact: Nick Way 0419 835 449 nickw@lasa.asn.au