Catholic Health Australia (CHA), the peak body representing 12% of Australia’s aged care facilities, is calling on the government to introduce industry-wide visa sponsorships for the aged care sector to address a major workforce shortage.
In its pre-budget submission, CHA highlights the urgent need for at least 60,000 care and nursing jobs to be filled and notes that this workforce shortage is set to worsen with 6,000 more nurses and 10,000 more personal care nurses will be needed to meet minimum care minutes requirements by October.
To help address this problem, CHA is calling for personal care workers to be made eligible for sponsorship and for the visa application process to be streamlined. CHA’s proposal also includes an industry-wide approach to the Pacific Australia Labor Migration (PALM) scheme, which would involve training and work for Pacific migrants.
The program would recruit job-ready applicants from the Pacific region for training and work experience in Australia and support their return as a skilled and experienced workforce to their nations at the end of the agreed work period.
CHA is also pushing for a new health and care worker passport to streamline compliance checks, as well as a reduction in visa application costs and waiting times.
CHA recommends that the government immediately enact the Fair Work Commission’s 15% pay rise for aged care workers and consider union calls for a 25% rise to help address the poor pay issue, which is a significant barrier to recruiting and retaining staff.
Aged Care Director of Catholic Health Australia Jason Kara stressed that the government needs to act swiftly to prevent workforce shortages from crippling the sector, particularly since all aged care operators will be required to provide 200 minutes of care per resident each day, with 40 of those minutes to be provided by a registered nurse.
CHA believes that an industry-wide visa sponsorship program would help reduce the shortage by coordinating recruitment, training, and onboarding, thereby reducing overheads and other barriers for providers and applicants.
By incorporating training in Australia into the program, a future skilled workforce in partner Pacific nations can be developed when migrants return home, giving back to their neighbours and communities.
“On top of migration changes, the government must also boost pay after the Royal Commission and the Fair Work Commission accepted that workers are underpaid and that this is a key reason for ongoing staff shortages and negative perceptions of the value of working in aged care,” Kara said.
Media release from Catholic Health Australia. Note: Content has been edited for style and length.