Aged care is at the top of voters’ minds as we enter the final weeks of the election campaign. Recent surveys from the Australian National University and also the ABC’s Vote Compass have confirmed that aged care ranks as a top issue of concern for Australians as they consider their vote.

In particular, there is extremely strong public support for a pay rise for our dedicated aged care workforce. The next federal government must support and fully fund the result of the Fair Work Commission aged care work value case. A short term workforce supplement payment is also needed so providers can afford an immediate pay increase.

The Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC) recently held a Town Hall event to hear the political parties respond to our election policy asks:

  1. A Workforce Partnership Supplement for providers to spend immediately on increasing wages, training, minutes of care, 24-hour nursing and COVID-19 prevention and workforce retention costs.

  2. A minimum wage increase for aged care workers by funding the Fair Work Commission Work Value Case, and award wage increases from July 2022.

  3. A commitment to a multidisciplinary workforce by putting in place an allied health needs assessment and funding model by July 2024.

In its pre-budget submission, AACC also made clear the urgent actions required on COVID-19, workforce and sustainability. Recent analysis from AACC shows that its workforce is on the brink of the poverty line, with wages for aged care workers having failed to keep up with the cost of living.

While AACC welcomed the response by the federal government in the May Budget in 2021, we have not seen a detailed plan to consult and deliver on the announced reforms. It is clear that there is still so much work that needs to be done, and prioritised, to solve the key structural issues identified by the Royal Commission.

AACC has also welcomed the Australian Labor Party’s commitment to deliver 24-hour nursing and additional funding, but there are key questions unanswered about the transition and the immediate crisis.

Nor does either plan prioritise fixing the three fundamentals that will transform the system so older Australians get the care and support they need and deserve. These are: workforce (more staff, better skilled and qualified, and better paid); funding (ensuring services are resourced and enabled to cover the true costs of delivering high quality care); and, accountability (putting in place measures that demonstrate transparently the positive difference aged care services make in the lives of older Australians and the value for money services deliver).

We intend to enter into a real partnership between the sector and the next government to deliver timely and effective aged care reform.