Home care workers to tell Royal Commission system of caring in homes is in crisis


Home care workers across Australia welcome the Royal Commission into Aged Care turning its focus to the home care sector tomorrow. For the first time the Royal Commission will be hearing evidence from frontline workers on the magnitude of the issues they are dealing with caring for older Australians in the home.

Home care workers have told their union that their main message for the Royal Commission is that the home care sector is in crisis. The sector has been chronically underfunded by this government, with waiting lists blowing out to 128,000 Australians – more than the entire population of Darwin.

United Voice home care members will be giving evidence to the Royal Commission in this week’s hearings. The main issues facing this vital, but hidden workforce are:

Simply having the time to care – home care visits are being shortened to 15 or 30 minutes, this is not enough time to provide quality care.

Low wages for increasingly difficult patient work – wage rates are $21 to $22 an hour, home care workers are some of the lowest paid workers in Australia. Low pay is fuelling high turnover rates.

Isolation, training and mentoring – Home care workers are working in isolation in people’s homes. New staff are receiving less training and are going out to see clients on their own quicker than ever before, the mentoring system has stopped. Team meetings are disappearing, the workforce isolated from each other. Members are desperate for more training in dementia, mental health and palliative care

Work-life balance – rosters change at a moment’s notice and work is stretched over a day. Home care workers spend hours of unpaid time sitting in their cars. Workers will be away from home for 10 or more hours but only paid for 4 or 5 contact hours with clients.

Helen Gibbons, Assistant National Secretary of United Voice, the care workers union says, “Finally, home care workers will have an opportunity to let Australians know that our home care system is in crisis.

“On this government’s watch the home care waiting list has blown out to 128,000 Australians. That is a truly shocking figure. 128,000 older Australians and their families have been abandoned by this government, denied the in-home care they urgently need. It shows the unbearable load on workers navigating a system under such pressure.

“The workforce is doing such vital work but just having to deal with too much at the same time. High workloads, no time to care, messy shifts, low pay, casualisation are all symptoms of an inadequately funded system.

“Our members are rushing through 15 minute visits, in this short time trying to shower, feed, dress and give medicines. This is not dignified care for older Australians in their own home.

“Just what will it take for this government to start listening and urgently take action on the issues facing the workforce and the wait lists? Quality home care jobs and quality care in the home are inextricably linked, and it’s what older Australians and the workers caring for them in the home need.

Janice Hilton, home care worker from regional NSW says, “Australians need to know that the system of caring for our elderly in their own homes is broken and in crisis. The system is just failing workers on every level. Experienced workers leave and then new workers don’t cope with the overtime and pressure. Workers need more support, training and decent wages.”

The government must urgently fund a home care system that delivers:

-A fair wage reflecting the importance of the work.

-Ensure workers have job security and certainty of hours.

-Ensure that home care workers have access to free; regular training and mentoring so they can deliver quality care.

-A review of funding methods to ensure money is there to deliver quality care and providers spend that public money to deliver quality care.

The home care hearings run from 18-22 March and United Voice home care members will be giving evidence.

/Public Release.