Message from leading age services Australia
Tuesday, 17 September, 2013
Chief Executive Officer of Leading Age Services Australia, Patrick Reid, presents the spring edition foreword.
Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) is the peak body for age service providers with around 70 per cent of providers covering all service types (home care, retirement living and residential care) in all settings (private, not-for-profit and mission based). LASA is committed to improved standards, equality and efficiency throughout the industry. We advocate for the health, community and accommodation needs of older Australians, working with government and other stakeholders to advance the interests of all age services providers, and through them, the interests of older Australians.
In recent weeks, the age services industry and in particular residential aged care has come under attack through blanket demonisation of the industry by the media, and most recently by a prominent Australian. The underlying theme of these attacks was founded upon calling on politicians to acknowledge and address the true cost of providing care to frail, older Australians, something LASA has fought strongly for, but must be done collegiately without besmirching an entire hard working industry.
A line in the sand must be drawn. Identified problems in care must be addressed and abuse never tolerated. No positive action can come from soiling an entire industry where the vast majority of providers deliver high-level care, despite being chronically under resourced to provide that care.
Ambassadors for causes and issues often work tirelessly and provide considerable exposure and insight to areas of need, but it is counterproductive and demoralising to make such damaging comments in isolation. Regardless of how many times someone has visited a facility they simply have no idea of what it is like to work in or run one, to provide care and support to our most vulnerable people 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. LASA supports and represents providers from every type of facility imaginable. Facilities that struggle to survive financially, many of which are in rural and regional areas, originally established to provide low-care services that have now morphed into full service models through necessity. Most of these facilities were built by their local community, and are often the only local aged care service and yet government is leaving them to deteriorate.
While most media stories made some reference to inadequate funding and the need to dramatically increase the workforce, the general public have little if any idea what it is like to work in age services. Caring is a challenge we should all understand better, particularly when 2.8 million Australians provide a caring role to another Australian. The Aged Care Workforce Final Report 2012 reveals that 46 per cent of Australia’s residential aged care facilities have a Personal Care Assistant on Work cover. It also reveals that 53 per cent of injuries are from pulling, pushing, lifting or bending, followed by 27 per cent being hit or cut.
What other industry has over a quarter of their workers as victims of being hit of cut? We all understand the dangers of working in the mining and construction industry and appreciate the high wages these workers get paid, acknowledging the inherent risk of their work. This is not the case in age services. Despite LASA and others campaigning for appropriate wage increases for all age service workers, the federal government responded with a workforce supplement for only select age service workers. This supplement was funded by a removal of $1.6 billion from the direct care budget. Even though the wage increase came from what would have normally been allocated to providers, it also requires additional funding to implement, further eroding the funding base for care. I fail to see how a government is serious about maintaining high quality age services or attracting new workers when it removes significant funding from industry and then fails to offer a fully funded wage increase. It is the health funding equivalent of shifting deck chairs on the Titanic.
What the public needs to understand is that the federal government has taken $1.6 billion out of direct care for age services since 2012.
Despite the greatest efforts, resourcing of the industry remains much less than the care demands, ensuring that many facilities continue to struggle. The finger of blame needs to be pointed directly at how we as Australians view age services when providers of residential aged care receive $170/day while prisons get $400/day.
As we are in election mode, our national conversation is dominated by what colour tie a politician wears or the activity of behind–the-scenes power brokers. These trivial issues trump the basic right of older Australians to age well. It is a national disgrace and the politicians of the nation should be told this.
“What the public needs to understand is that the federal government has taken $1.6 billion out of direct care for age services since 2012.”
CEO, Leading Age Services Australia
P 02 6230 1676
Join LASA’s campaign to register your support at www.3millionreasons.com.au
Leading Age Services Australia
Phone: 02 6230 1676 / Web: www.lasa.asn.au
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