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Federal budget: still no aged care workforce investment plan

Federal budget: still no aged care workforce investment plan

The Federal Government has ignored nursing and medical leaders’ calls for aged care workforce investment measures for Australia’s 2717 residential aged care facilities.

The budget’s silence on improving workforce numbers and skill mix will come as a major disappointment to nurses and personal care workers employed in Victoria’s 612 private aged care facilities which have faced the brunt of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The budget included measures to improve aged care workers’ skills, but no announcements to increase the number of registered and enrolled nurses or personal care workers to improve resident care.

An additional 23,000 home care packages at a cost of $1.6 billion will be provided to help older Australians continue living in their own homes.

In the lead up to the budget, the ANMF and the Australian Medical Association called on the Federal Government to address understaffing in residential aged care before the aged care royal commissions’ final recommendations.

The royal commission’s interim report titled ‘Neglect’, published in October 2019, already exposed the true severity residential aged care’s significant and systemic problems.

Delivering the budget speech Treasurer Josh Frydenberg thanked healthcare workers on the COVID-19 frontline and called them ‘local heroes’.

‘Their courage, commitment and compassion reflects the very best of Australia,’ he said.

ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said ‘There is little investment in the nursing and midwifery workforce and even less for our aged care workers.

‘Instead, the Government is deferring action in aged care yet again, by waiting for the release of the royal commission’s final report in February.’

In December 2019 the Federal Government announced an additional $537 million to respond to the royal commission’s interim report and an additional $1.6 billion during the pandemic. There are no funding transparency measures to ensure aged care providers account for how this taxpayer money is spent.

‘If jobs are the cornerstone of the national economic recovery-plan, the ANMF is calling on the Government to act now and address the dangerously inadequate levels of qualified nurses and care staff working in aged care,’ Ms Butler said.