As the report’s authors say, “Many of the people and institutions in the aged care sector want to deliver the best possible care to older people.” Yet limited government funding over the past couple of decades has left staff members stretched thin and organisations unable to meet demand.
Even though the new policies and regulations that emerge as a result of this report may present significant organisational challenges, there are also things to be positive about, from changes to funding to an increased demand for services. Let’s unpack what this report means for the industry and for aged care workforce management.
How Much Will The Royal Commission’s Final Report Transform Workforce Management?
148 recommendations: that’s how many the report contains. Many of these are drastic, calling not just for surface fixes but also fundamental changes to the way we conceive aged care in Australia.
If all the recommendations are put into practice, aged care facilities will face increased regulation, trickier scheduling, changes to fees, increased funding, and even the possibility of being sued by families. The Prime Minister has already committed to introducing a new Aged Care Act based on “respect for the individual”.
However, we do not yet know the full extent of the changes that will be made. Although recommendations were made in the report, they need to be considered by the Cabinet, who will then announce new policies and initiatives.
This article is going to break down probable changes to aged care workforce management based on the report’s recommendations. It’s worth bearing in mind that there will also be a transition period, with most initiatives likely to be rolled out between 2022 and 2025. Regardless, aged care providers will benefit from preparing earlier rather than later.
Greater regulation is almost guaranteed. In terms of the staff, recommendations include a minimum of certificate III training, English proficiency tests, regular training on dementia and palliative care, and a national registration system that tracks past complaints against personal care workers.
In residential aged care homes, the report also calls for a registered nurse to eventually be available around the clock. From 2022, the average resident will need to have at least 200 minutes a day of contact time with a staff member, 40 minutes of which should be with a registered nurse. In 2024, those numbers are due to rise again.
The report recommends that aged care providers are accredited by a new, independent Aged Care Safety and Quality Authority, which will also monitor compliance with the new conditions.
Aged care providers should expect scheduling to become significantly more complex. They may find they have to take on additional staff to meet minimum contact times; however, the higher certification and proficiency requirements may also affect the number of available workers. The aged care industry is already facing a possible shortage of casual workers due to reduced migration, so improving worker retention should be a priority.
With greater regulations comes increased audits and record-keeping. We can expect compliance to come under the microscope, with facilities reporting daily staffing hours, break times, scheduled and actual time spent with specific residents, training dates, certification, and more. Not only will record-keeping and data storage be essential, but errors are likely to result in costly fines.
Fundamental Changes in The Economics of Aged Care
The aged care industry has been underfunded for 24 years, with negative effects on providers, staff, and residents. For the Commissioners, the lack of sufficient funding for the aged care industry is a key issue – yet they disagree on how to fix it. And their recommendations about fees and funding alike are complex.
Moving forward, aged care will probably be publicly funded through a Medicare-style levy. The Commissioners agreed on the need for a levy, although they offered alternative visions for it. This may affect aged care provider’s cash flow in the short term, although the details are yet to finalised.
Some things are more certain, however. There is a strong probability of higher minimum wages for staff, in addition to the increased staffing needs we’ve already mentioned.
When it comes to the future economics of aged care, much will depend on how the Cabinet decides to put Commissioners’ recommendations into practice. However, we can expect to see dramatic changes – and hopefully, it will be to the benefit of aged care centres.
Flexibility Becomes Essential
The report recommends moving to a rights-based model of aged care, which means the focus is not on what an aged care provider offers but on what elderly members of society need.
In fact, the report explicitly states that “the rights and freedoms of people receiving aged care should be only limited by the need to respect the rights of other members of their community”.
Demand for services will undoubtedly increase. The report recommends that Home Care Packages are immediately increased and the waiting list is cleared. We may also see a rising need for more personalised or comprehensive, recipient-focused care packages.
There are opportunities for growth here, if aged care providers respond quickly and flexibly. However, a trained, flexible staff plus robust communication and scheduling processes will be essential to taking advantage of this.
We don’t yet know the full extent of the changes that the Royal Commission’s final report will spark – but we are beginning to get a picture of the future of aged care. There are drastic changes ahead, but also many reasons to remain positive: better care, better funding, and new business opportunities.
A skilled, motivated and loyal workforce will be key to adapting as regulations and demand increase. Humanforce is committed to having a system that helps you comply as the recommendations become legislation. To find out how your company can improve aged care worker engagement and retention in 2021 and beyond, download our free ebook.