Government moves forward with plan to tackle country’s aged care labour shortages

May 16, 2023
New visa pathway plan set to help combat aged care labour shortage. Source: Getty

Australia may soon overcome its industry-wide aged-care labour shortage after a new agreement was set up to prioritise visas for migrant workers.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles made the announcement on Monday, May 15, stating that Perth’s Curtin Heritage has become the first aged care provider to sign the memorandum of understanding with the federal government to secure up to 570 skilled workers.

It is understood that the scheme allows migrant workers priority visa processing as well as a two-year pathway to permanent residency while boosing aged care worker numbers.

Curtin Heritage Living Managing Director David Cox said access to the new pathway will allow them to “deliver the best possible care” to older Australians.

“From an industry perspective, we believe this agreement is a positive step toward addressing a critical shortage of skilled workers and will hopefully offer some relief to other aged care service providers,” Cox said.

Sharing the same sentiments is Aged Care Minister Anika Wells, who added that the new priority visa employment process allows older Australians to “receive safe, high-quality care” they deserve.

“We are ambitious for aged care and the Albanese Government’s historic $36 billion-dollar aged care budget will help restore dignity to older people, just as the Royal Commission asked us to,” Well said.

“I want to thank Minister Giles for helping to bolster the aged care workforce so some of our most vulnerable Australians receive a higher standard of care.”

According to Giles, the pathway is “fundamental to addressing key skills shortages” and further “reaffirms the Government’s commitment to addressing skill shortages within the care sector.”

“The delivery of this labour agreement is only possible because of the Albanese Government’s commitment to slash the visa backlog of almost one million and get our migration system working again in the interest of all Australians,” he said.

News of the new visa pathway comes weeks after the Albanese government awarded a $400,000 tender to the University of Wollongong for consultancy services to develop “alternative arrangements” for the 24/7 nursing requirement in the hopes to prevent more closures in the residential aged care sector.

In his 2022 budget reply speech, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese promised to ensure all residential aged-are facilities to have a nurse rostered at all times by July 1 this year, a year ahead of the recommendation made by the aged-care royal commission.

The government’s potential 24/7 policy update comes just after Bupa, one of Australia’s largest providers of aged care services, called for changes to the pension system to entice retired nurses to return to work and combat the severe shortage of healthcare workers.

According to Bupa Villages & Aged Care’s managing director, Andrew Kinkade, “thousands of older Australians right now are in a base hospital, waiting for access to aged care.”

“The aged care is there and has room available, but doesn’t have the workforce…The impact is it’s placing a strain on the broader health system,” Kinkade said.

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