Coalition pledges $34m aged care research centre

Research centre to examine training and education for care providers.

The Coalition has pledged $34 million to establish an Aged Care Workforce Research Centre, to examine new ways to deliver care for older Australians and training and education for care providers.

Leading Age Services Australia CEO Sean Rooney said workforce development is of critical importance to the future of the age services sector.

“LASA strongly supports responses to workforce development and initial and ongoing training and development of aged care staff.

“We need to work towards ensuring providers have the right number of staff, with the right mix of skills, to meet the different needs of every resident or client in their care. That must apply to every different type of aged care setting.”

Rooney said the research centre will be well-placed to address priorities such as identifying optimal models of care that are linked to the aged care standards and determine the workforce skill mix and training such models require.

Today more than 1.3 million Australians access or use some form of aged care, with that number expected to grow to an estimated 3.5 million Australians by 2050.

As part of its pre-election pledge, the Coalition said it will prioritise the growth area of aged care with the goal of reaching 475,000 aged care workers in Australia by 2025, with significant growth projected in personal care workers, nurses, support staff and allied health professionals.

“This funding will deliver better support and care for older Aust­­ralians, while ensuring we build the workforce to meet the demands­ of an ageing population,” the Prime Minister said.

National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) director, Associate Professor Briony Dow said the centre would provide a priority driven approach to research and translation, a pipeline for innovation and commercialisation and an expert advisory source for aged care workers, the government and industry.

“In Australia, there is a gap between evidence and practice. An Aged Care Workforce Research Centre would bring together clinicians, researchers, industry leaders and policy makers to identify gaps and priorities, and facilitate uptake of best practice,” Associate Professor Dow said.

The announcement has also been welcomed by Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA) as important, but says political parties are avoiding things that can make a difference right now.

Patricia Sparrow, CEO of ACSA said research in aged care is very important but the political parties are avoiding the kind of actions that will make a difference to older Australians right now such as a short-term funding injection into residential care.

“The research centre proposal demonstrates that the Coalition recognises that aged care is a growing area and will need significant resources invested into future jobs growth.

“Parties that commit to these urgent priorities will send a clear message that they recognise and care about our ageing population and those who care for our elderly.”

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety began hearings on residential aged care facilities, and nursing homes, in Sydney this week. The Royal Commission opened with a preliminary hearing in Adelaide in January.

The Commission will primarily look at the quality of care provided in residential and home aged care to senior Australians, but also include young Australians with disabilities living in residential aged care settings.

At these hearings evidence will be presented will involve key features of the aged care quality, safety and complaints system, and how that system works in practice on a general level. There will also be information about the challenges faced by the aged care system.

This will include accounts from consumer advocacy bodies, health care provider peak bodies, national aged care provider peak bodies and regulators.

The investigation received more than 300 submissions from members of the public in all states and territories to date since the process opened on 24 December, 2018.

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