Aged Care Royal Commission: Final report backs HSU initiatives

  • Published March 9, 2021

The report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety is finally here – and the findings paint a dismal picture of underfunding and neglect.

The same dire pronouncements echo throughout the pages of the report: not enough time or resources to provide quality care to older Australians in care; rock bottom pay for workers who care for our elderly; and a system that is coming apart at the seams thanks to the depredations of successive government cuts and unscrupulous private operators. It couldn’t be clearer, according to the report. At current funding levels, decent care is an impossibility:

“The evidence is that current funding levels in residential aged care do not allow workers the time to provide high quality relationship-based care.” – p. 9

But there were also moments of sunshine amidst the gloom. The Commissioners spoke very highly of the aged care workers who keep turning up day after day to care for older people in an exceptionally difficult environment:

“The present aged care system has a workforce whose dedication to care is impressive and worthy of more praise and reward.” – p. 3

The report also praised the HSU’s Work Value Case lodged last year, seeking an historic 25 per cent wage increase for aged care workers:

“The Australian Government, providers and unions must work together to improve pay for aged care workers. We put forward two recommendations to facilitate this. First, we recommend that the Australian Government, providers and unions should collaborate on a work value case and equal remuneration application to the Fair Work Commission. We are pleased to see that the Health Services Union has already made such an application for its aged care members…
Second, wage increases should be an explicit policy objective of aged care funding. As part of the new aged care funding system we propose, we are recommending the establishment of a Pricing Authority to set prices for high quality and safe aged care. We consider that an important part of that work will be to price aged care at a level that enables workers to be remunerated to reflect what similar workers are paid in similar sectors, such as health and disability. In setting prices for aged care, the Pricing Authority should take into account the need to attract sufficient staff with the appropriate skills to the sector, noting that relative remuneration levels are an important driver of employment choice.”

It’s clear that change is desperately needed and HSU members are hoping this report will finally provide the impetus to change the system for good. Government and opposition members have already flagged that they are open to another HSU suggestion to ensure proper funding for aged care, a possible aged care levy along the lines of the Medicare levy. The future looks brighter...

“This is the result of relentless work from HSU members dating back 20 years – fighting for more staff, better wages, improved conditions, mandatory qualifications, and funding that is reliable and transparent. I want to thank Gerard Hayes, Lauren Hutchins and the rest of the aged care team, who have aided us in the fight at every step.” - Lindy Twyford, HSU Aged Care councillor