Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce Summits

Page last updated: 11 January 2019

First Summit Communique: Working summit – all voices heard, all views captured

The first of two working summits was held on 4 December 2017 to provide an early opportunity for the wide range of interests in the workforce to contribute to shaping thinking about an industry driven workforce strategy.

The summit attracted close to 200 contributors bringing a broad range of knowledge, skills and perspectives to support the Taskforce in shaping a strategy. These included: people and organisations from residential and home based care; employee representatives; consumer groups; health professionals; academics and researchers; organisations from rural and remote locations, and representation from groups with diverse characteristics and life experiences.

The Taskforce chair, Professor John Pollaers, outlined the program of work of the Taskforce and the thinking behind the five strategic imperatives the Taskforce is to use in reframing thinking about the aged care workforce.

He highlighted the phased approach being applied to the work of the Taskforce, and the associated engagement and consultation to support this approach. This approach recognises that all voices will be heard as the Taskforce carries through its program on shaping, building, and implementing an aged care workforce strategy.

Three interactive discussions took place during the day, with sessions to debate what can be covered through the five imperatives and several specific considerations to be accounted for as the strategy starts to take shape over the coming months.

A plenary session was held on the first of the Taskforce’s five imperatives: Cultural truth and belonging. This is about industry and organisational culture, and getting to a shared belief, or a common understanding of why this (aged care) industry matters.

Eight workshop sessions then covered the remaining four imperatives, together with key priority areas where the Taskforce is seeking early views to support its work.

The remaining four imperatives were:

  • Industry leadership, mindset and accountability
  • Industry operating model – covering such issues as job profiling and roles, skills, capabilities and competencies, and the gap between the current state and the requirements of the future workforce
  • Industry attraction and retention, and
  • Translating research and technology into models of care and practice

The priority areas where early views have been sought were:

  • Consumer needs and expectations
  • Barriers and impediments to innovation
  • An effective workforce
  • Enhancing safety and quality.

Throughout the summit contributors were asked to consider:

  • Shaping a workforce strategy focused on the consumer experience
  • All the service touchpoints for people in ageing and ageing well, in a variety of settings, and regardless of location
  • Putting consumers at the heart of strategic and service choices and business decisions
  • The shared value that can be generated by collaboration and engagement between businesses and local communities
  • The diverse composition of the workforce itself, and diverse characteristics and life experiences of consumers, families and informal carers.
  • The summit process ensured that all views and insights were captured, to inform the next stages of the Taskforce’s work.

Second Summit Communique:  Aged care. How we care says who we are

An industry driven, pragmatic strategy with a focus on practical outcomes ─ this is where 120 participants directed their attention at the second national Taskforce summit held in Adelaide on 30 April 2018.

At the first summit in December 2017 the focus was on hearing all voices, outlining the engagement and consultation intentions of the Taskforce and introducing the five strategic imperatives which have been used to shape a workforce strategy.

Since the last summit, there have been thousands of hours of consultation across Australia, engaging the community, aged care providers, the wider workforce, researchers and education bodies:

  • These have included 400 providers / services and peak organisations;
  • 684 responses to a call for public submissions; community consultations involving 260 consumers, workers and providers; and over 70 individual between the Taskforce Chair and a range of interest groups and individuals / organisations.
  • The Taskforce has also drawn on advice provided through specific topic roundtables and specialist Technical Advisory Groups.

The Taskforce committed to taking action as its work proceeds, where consultations and other evidence show there is value in acting early ─ this is reflected in the strategic actions outlined in this communique.

The summit was organised around five panel discussions, chaired by prominent Australian journalist Kerry O’Brien. These provided the opportunity to explore broad themes arising out of the work of the Taskforce, grouped as follows:

  • Reframing caring and attitudes to ageing.
  • Industry leadership.
  • Reframing qualifications, work placement, career pathways  and accreditation
  • Enhancement ─ A living well model of care, workforce planning and skills mix.
  • Future of work ─ research and knowledge into practice.

The total of 19 panel members were drawn nationally from providers and services, consumer representatives, peak organisations, unions, education,  academics and researchers, and health professionals, together with Taskforce subject matter experts.

Panel discussions followed the opening session where the Chair of the Taskforce, Professor John Pollaers OAM, took participants through the significant body of work undertaken so far by the Taskforce, and outlined 15 proposed strategic actions.

Transformational change, disruptive approach

Professor Pollaers set out three key themes for transformational change:

  • Shifting attitude: strong leadership to bring about a change of attitude community-wide towards ageing and dying.
  • Reforming access: by reframing caring to a broader, more proactive approach, with access to the right help, at the right time.
  • Enhancing life: where caring for the aged should not be a burden and where care adds to the quality of someone’s life with a workforce enabled to make life for others better.

Professor Pollaers outlined a uniting industry-wide understanding of why this industry matters which emerged from workshops held around the country. A vision for the aged care Industry and its workforce:

We exist to inspire people to want to care,

enable people to properly care

and enhance life through care.

Because how we care for our ageing

is a reflection of who we are as a nation.

Actions to bring a strategy to life

Professor Pollaers outlined 15 proposed strategic actions identified through the Taskforce’s work. The first two actions provide a fundamental starting point and underpin for all other actions.

Strategic action one centres on a co-designed social change campaign to reframe caring and promote the aged care workforce ─ with a strong focus on shifting attitudes to ageing and dying. This recognises that reframing caring is a social challenge, and begins with an understanding that care for ageing Australians is broader than organised, professional care.

The second strategic action is about recognising and taking a realistic, wider view of consumers and industry. This involves being clear about who are the users of aged care services, and defining industry, in a way that makes sure all touchpoints involving workforces and older people are considered  ─ from financial and retirement planning, through many forms of health, community and aged care services, to the role played by informal carers and volunteers.

The third strategic action is the commitment to a voluntary Industry Code of Practice. This has emerged as a key action and is about providing a clear and tangible demonstration of industry leadership. The Code is designed to incorporate initiatives aimed at achieving consumer-centric, high quality aged care, including workforce practices that will attract and retain committed, high quality staff. The Code is to start at the principles level, evolve over time in accordance with industry maturity and demonstrate how the industry will remain ahead of community expectations.

Strategic action four is about reframing the qualifications and skills framework for the industry, based on two building blocks:

  • Taking a fundamental and fresh look at current job families, job structures and job sizes across a widely defined industry, and focussing on the roles of Personal Care Workers and nurses in particular in the workforce.
  • Modernising education and training to support the workforce of the future. The creation of a dedicated Aged Services Industry Reference Committee with a wide remit ─ directly as a result of the Taskforce’s work ─ provides a significant step forward in addressing long-standing issues of concern to the industry.

The fifth strategic action takes up the analysis and steps undertaken under the fourth by moving into re-thinking and opening up new career pathways including how the workforce is accredited.

The focus here is on extending the levels of jobs within the Personal Care Worker job family to create better pathways, recognising the professional and distinct role of nurses working with older people and covering new and emerging roles that support the consumer experience, such as care coordinators or family liaison.

Accreditation features canvassed include nesting of qualifications, moving to recognition of micro-credentialing by industry, local credentialing and using the Code to support industry accreditation of Registered Training Organisations.

The sixth strategic action is to develop cultures of feedback and continuous improvement. This is about frank recognition that issues around fear and retribution have been raised by consumers and the workforce. It is not about judging, but acknowledging this and finding practical, meaningful ways of dealing with these concerns, and showing how Code commitments can be used to enable practical actions like consumer, employee and leadership surveys/feedback or better pre-employment vetting of potential employees.

The seventh strategic action is establishing a new standard approach to workforce planning and skills mix modelling. A mindset shift is needed from thinking about the workforce and workforce planning in isolation to having these informed by each individual’s care needs. A holistic care plan is central to decisions about the organisation of work and the skills mix selected. This needs to be supported by each organisation’s business model, with responsibility taken by the board or managing body for effective delivery. Aligned with the Code, workforce planning is to focus on the principles of living well and integrated care.

The eighth strategic action focuses on funding issues, together with the industry environment and its impact on the workforce. With financial performance of not-for-profits and for-profit organisations being similar, there is evidence of underfunding of the industry. If aged care continues as a subsidised industry, then employers, unions, consumers and the community will need to have a more nuanced conversation with government on securing the appropriately sourced amount of funding. Added to this broad element, the industry needs to develop considered remuneration strategies for the job families in the industry.

The ninth strategic action is implementing new attraction and retention strategies. Attracting and keeping the right people, who are the right fit, depends on actions taken under many of the other strategic actions. Reinforcing a strong and respected industry reputation provides the foundation. The industry needs to build on the factors known to attract needed talent, address factors discouraging top talent or skilled people to stay and cater more strategically for the increasingly diverse workforce. There are already productive industry practices that have been proving successful in pockets around the country that need to be shared, scaled up or extended.

Transitioning the existing workforce to new standards is the tenth strategic action. This will involve bringing together early take-up by the industry of the new jobs pathways and roles identified through strategic actions four and five and the commitment by the industry to actions under the Code (strategic action three). Added to these, concerted effort can be made ─ with the support of the industry and governments at all levels ─ to enable the existing workforce to requalify via accessing new training and refreshing their skills. This will include allowance for recognition of prior learning.

The eleventh strategic action ─ develop a revised industrial relations framework to better reflect the changing nature of work ─ reinforces the importance of modernising the approaches to workforce organisation. This is also about acknowledging the changing nature of the work, driven by consumer needs and preferences, and challenging traditional business and workforce models. Employers, employees and unions need to have a dialogue about working on areas of common interest.

Strengthening the interface between aged care and primary/acute care is the twelfth strategic action. This is about the effect on individuals, coordination of systems and the need for a national dialogue across all levels of government about health and care services for older people. Each individual’s health care and wellbeing needs to be considered across systems, and based on their stage in life and personal goals. Full advantage needs to be taken of well-tested coordination and integrated care practices and vehicles, together with support and models that enable health professionals to extend knowledge of the needs of older people and work as part of inter-disciplinary teams in or with aged care services.

The thirteenth strategic action is about improved training and recruitment practices for the Australian Government workforces that work closely with both consumers and providers. These include My Aged Care assessment and contact centre staff, Quality Agency assessors and those handling complaints. These workforces are customer-facing, in direct and daily contact with consumers. Their approach can influence how care is delivered and the timing of access to care.

Workforce issues in remote and very remote areas call for specific and tailored actions, informed by on-the-ground experience. The fourteenth strategic action is to establish a Remote Accord. This is about, first, creating a united remote and very remote industry voice, and then developing the means for taking this forward so that industry can engage on the workforce issues needing attention and develop a pathway for change. All levels of government, industry and the community will need to work together to achieve this.

The fifteenth strategic action is to establish an Aged Care Industry Growth and Research Translation Centre with the intention to lay down the platform for tomorrow. The Centre is to support the uptake of innovations to drive improvements in aged care service delivery and workforce capability, and position the industry’s potential to engage with export markets for aged care skills, knowledge and technologies. Through priority-driven, outcomes- focussed research, the results sought will be in evidence-based models of care, assistive technologies and digital innovation.