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Aged care is a HR challenge

by Kelly Stone

The human resources side of aged care was the focus of a recent UniSA seminar.Human resources perspectives on the challenges of providing quality aged care and disability services was the focus of a recent practice seminar run by UniSA’s Centre for Human Resource Management (HRM).

Seminar organiser, UniSA’s Dr Gerry Treuren, says growing demand for these services and growing expectations for service delivery means the aged care and disability sectors face difficult choices.

“We’re in what could be a demographic bulge of 20-30 years as Baby Boomers start retiring, and as a result demand for aged care will be enormous. However, after 20 or 30 years, Generation X – far fewer in number – will start to retire, with less demand for aged care services,” he says.

“Expectations of people going into aged care today are much higher than they’ve ever been. Previous generations would say things like ‘as long as I’m not a bother to anyone’ but the Baby Boomers have spent most of their lives demanding and getting a higher standard of living.

“At the same time, governments are demanding high standards but they’re providing less and less funding for the sector.”

Dr Treuren says the aged care sector will become more segmented, with increased provision of services at varying degrees of intensity – ranging from people living at home with personal care attendants providing regular help, through to full service facilities for those who need it.

He says the biggest difficulty facing the sector now and into the future is finding labour. With the global financial crisis over, and as employers gradually continue to hire people, the labour shortage will continue to grow. He also says the aged care and disabilities services sector will struggle to hold their workforce and recruit new employees because of the poor level of pay and conditions.

“Finding and retaining labour for this sector is a growing challenge for us all,” Dr Treuren says.

“Solutions will emerge over time through interaction with the problem, if at all, and a lot of it comes down to how governments support the sector.”

Guest speakers at the seminar were Southern Cross Care HR Manager Michelle Drake and Paraplegic and Quadriplegic Association of SA/Homecare Plus HR Manager Libby Frankish.

About 30 people attended the seminar, including human resources practitioners from business and industry, academics, and postgraduate and undergraduate human resources students.The Centre for HRM’s HR Practice Series is now in its seventh year. The next seminar will be held on May 20. See here for more information.