But that’s set to change. The federal government has commissioned Flinders University and collaborating partner Wells Advisory to develop the structure for the Aged Care Centre for Growth and Translational Research – a $34 million, federally funded three-year initiative which will provide a significant boost for the troubled sector by focusing on its workforce and dealing directly with its varied needs to implement better care.
Statistics reveal glaring problems within the aged care workforce. In 2020, 29% of staff left the sector, compared with national averages of 7.5% departure rates in other workforce sectors.
“It’s a very distressed sector,” explains Professor Sue Gordon, Professor of Healthy Ageing at Flinders University. “Many staff transferred from aged care to the disability sector, which pays more for the same skills. Career pathways are not readily available, so advancement is difficult.”
Having established the structure, Flinders aspires to lead the new Centre with the aim of delivering a breakthrough for the quality of aged care by providing direct workforce interaction and training. With the Flinders bid supported by 73 aged care sector participants, including providers of 25% of all residential aged care beds in Australia, it would have a strong platform to influence significant change.
“We have many wonderful areas of innovation within aged care in Australia, but it’s piecemeal. Best practices need to be adopted that are scalable and transferable across the nation,” explains Professor Gordon. “This will improve the consistency of care, which the sector has had difficulty achieving.”
Problems were highlighted by the important 2018 Australian Department of Health report A Matter of Care, that mapped an aged care workforce strategy (including the creation of a Centre for Growth and Translational Research among its 14 recommendations), but the needs were greatly magnified by the 2020 Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. Professor Gordon is delighted that there will soon be a Centre able to support the workforce to implement swift change within the aged care sector.