Low pay, isolation for some care workers
Like most aged care workers, Anna Hansen didn’t get into the sector to make the big bucks.
“We don’t come into this industry to be rich. We come into this industry because we genuinely care about people,” the Adelaide woman told the royal commission into aged care quality and safety.
“We want to make their lives better.”
But better wages and training are needed to attract more people into the field and keep them there, Hansen and other carers have argued.
“For the work that we do, the pay doesn’t reflect that at all,” Perth carer Sally Warren told the inquiry.
Hansen and Ms Warren were among four personal carers to appear at the royal commission on Tuesday, as hearings into people getting care at home continued.
Their diverse daily duties can include showering people, cleaning, shopping, taking people out on trips and preparing meals.
The shortest visits are just 15 minutes, often consisting of a welfare check or food preparation.
Brisbane carer Heather Jackson, who has been in the industry for 24 years, said many aged care workers’ wages fall short of a base hourly rate of $28 and young people aren’t sticking around for the low rates.
Other home carers struggle to deal with working on the road and only keeping in touch with their bosses by phone.
“Some people have left the industry because they don’t like the isolation, they don’t feel supported enough,” Jackson said.
Working alone can be especially daunting in the evening, when people being cared for don’t have lights outside their homes, Sydney carer Rosemary Dale said.
“It actually can be very scary, but the clients need us so we do it,” she said.
Each of the carers also spoke about the value of ongoing in-person training, which some providers have replaced in recent years with online programs. But despite the challenges facing them, each loves the work they do.
“It’s the human element of it. It’s helping people,” Warren said.
The carers’ comments come after a man revealed he had seen a registered nurse a few times in seven years, despite being billed for 92 hours a year through his home care package.
Under his package Josef Rack was charged an hourly rate of $70 for work done by a registered nurse, equating to $536.66 a month.
“Over the whole seven years I had a registered nurse about three or four times in my house,” Rack said.
But provider Southern Cross Care’s manager Caroline Ford said he may not have understood that his “wellbeing partner” was a registered nurse after they switched to a new model in 2016.
“We tried not to have the ‘registered nurse’ flavour, we would say we were ‘wellbeing partners’,” she said.