The aged care system caters for Australians aged 65 and over (and Indigenous Australians aged 50 and over) who can no longer live without support in their own home. Care is provided in people’s homes, in the community and in residential aged care facilities (nursing homes) by a wide variety of providers. The Australian Government is the primary funder and regulator of the system. The Aged Care Act 1997 (the Act) and associated Aged Care Principles set out the legislative framework for the funding and regulation of aged care, although services are also provided through contractual arrangements outside of the Act. The Australian Government Department of Health (DoH) is responsible for the operation of the Act.
Types of Care
The Australian Government subsidises aged care services for older people. Subsidised care provided under the Act consists of home care, residential care and flexible care. Care provided through funding agreements with providers (rather than under the framework specified in the Act) includes home support and Indigenous flexible care. Following is a brief outline of each type of care, together with information on care statistics and support programs. The programs include:
- Care at home
- Residential care
- Flexible care
Aged care workers make a valuable contribution to the daily lives of many thousands of older people across Australia. Creating an appropriately skilled and well-qualified workforce is fundamental to delivering high-quality aged care services that meet the needs of older Australians. Australia’s aged care workforce is expected to grow to around 827,100 in 2050. There will be opportunities for people to become involved in this expanding industry. There are a range of aged care qualifications, career development opportunities and skills training available.
Direct-care workers may provide care in a person’s home or in an aged care home. All aged care homes are required under the Accreditation Standards to employ appropriately skilled and qualified staff to care for residents. For example, all residents with high-level care must have any nursing services carried out by a registered nurse or other appropriate professional. Workers in non-direct care roles might be managers who work in administration or ancillary workers who provide catering, cleaning, laundry, maintenance and gardening. In addition to the paid aged care workforce, volunteers play a major role in supporting the aged care workforce.
The rights in the workforce of aged care workers are protected by workplace relations legislation. The Fair Work Commission (FWC) is the national workplace relations tribunal. It is an independent body with the power to judge or adjudicate over issues in the workplace including wages, terms of employment, dispute resolution or industrial action. The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) provides free advice about workplace rights and responsibilities for either employers or employees. They can advise you about issues such as:
- Minimum pay
- Leave and conditions
- National Employment Standards
- Record keeping and pay slip obligations
- Redundancy and termination
- Workplace discrimination