Registration of aged care workforce protects public

court house interior

The ANMF has reiterated its call for registration of the personal care workforce at the Aged Care Royal Commission this week.

The week-long Melbourne hearings focus on the aged care workforce, including capacity and training.

Director Operations & Strategy of the ANMF (SA Branch) who is also Deputy Chair of the Aged Care Industry Reference Committee (IRC) Robert Bonner gave evidence alongside a panel of vocational training representatives late Monday afternoon.

The fundamental tenet of professional regulation under the health practitioners’ scheme was protection of the public, Mr Bonner argued before the Commission.

“We are dealing in this environment with some of the most vulnerable people in care anywhere in the country.

“So we need a scheme that is fundamentally modelled on the health practitioners’ law that is in the interests of protecting the public. And, as part of that, you then deal with conduct, you deal with competence and you deal with qualifications approval.”

The panel was quizzed on the educational requirements of the certificate III and career pathways for the aged care workforce.

The IRC had been tasked with looking at the adequacy of the existing certificate III in individual support work for performance in the industry, Mr Bonner said.

“The feedback from industry was that it was not adequately preparing workers for job-ready roles in the sector. That is our priority piece of work because if that wasn’t successful, then there was a fundamental breakdown in terms of work capacity in the sector.”

Part of the challenge of developing qualifications was that the sector had “two- or three thousand providers spread across the length and breadth of the country”, Mr Bonner said.

However Commissioners heard from the panel that the expanding role and expectations of a certificate III level worker was incongruent with what that level worker could do.

“I think we are preparing workers at a cert III level for roles that are requiring skills, knowledge and competence that are far beyond that,” Mr Bonner said.

Two examples included wound care and medication credentialing of those in support worker roles.

“You can keep on adding more and more content into a certificate III level program. But it doesn’t add to the capacity of the worker to assess independently of other people, to have the knowledge and skills to make the decisions about whether or not it’s appropriate to medicate or not medicate a client,” Mr Bonner said.

“If you don’t have assessment planning skills, the kind of technical knowledge and skills, then it can be dangerous to ask workers with a certificate III level qualification to cast their practice into those areas without supervision and support.”

Counsel assisting the commission Paul Bolster said the statistics suggested that a nursing role was being forced on these workers.

Regulation would bring rigour to both the work of the workers and their educational preparation, Mr Bonner said.

“We need to be blending the needs for competent individual workers with a capable overall workforce that blends the various skills and attributes, professional disciplines to meet consumer needs that are ever-growing and so we need more people with more capabilities and knowledge, with greater skills at the point of care.

“To do that we need to make our qualifications easier to navigate and easier to progress, and we need co-investment and co-responsibility between industry, students and training providers to get there.”

The hearings continue this week

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