The 'farewell career'

If you’ve retired and are regretting the decision, the aged care sector could offer a new opportunity, writes National Seniors’ Chief Advocate Ian Henschke.

To meet the care needs and personal desires of our ageing population, estimates suggest we will need a workforce that consists of 980,000-plus caring, compassionate and highly-trained personal care workers.

Therein lies the challenge. Today’s community care organisations are struggling to attract and retain suitable, qualified and motivated candidates, and if we take a closer look at the employment model, it’s not difficult to understand why. Inflexible awards and variable work hours have resulted in a highly casualised workforce.

This workforce boasts a high 40 per cent turnover, moderate pay rates of approximately $27 per hour, limited career paths and no certainty of hours. These challenges increase exponentially the further away you move from capital cities. So, how will we meet the future care needs of an ageing population?

The recent work of the Aged Care Strategy Taskforce, including a major research report Accentuating the positive: consumer experiences of aged care at home undertaken by National Seniors’ Interim CEO Professor John McCallum, identified several strategies to address this impending shortfall.

Other ways of broadening the pool of suitable candidates and ensuring they are professionally trained to meet the increasingly complex care needs of the community must be fully explored.

The Baby Boomer generation aged between 55 and 70 has been labelled as the next fastest growing demographic. A real opportunity exists to address the entrenched age discrimination of the industry by offering a “Farewell Career” – a traineeship program that offers the right Baby Boomers the opportunity to re-skill and excel in a new aged care career.

The 2016-17 Multipurpose Household Survey identified 177,500 people aged 45 years and over who had previously retired from the workforce but, at the time of the survey, were either in the workforce or were planning to look for, or take up, work in the future. Commonly reported reasons for returning to work were financial need (42 per cent) and needing something to do (32 per cent).

The Federal Budget 2018-19 announced changes to the Work Bonus Scheme that pave the way for retirees to earn a higher amount without affecting their Age Pensions. Under these changes, from July 2019, a single person on a full Age Pension will be able to earn up to $472 per fortnight and couples on the full Age Pension will be able to earn up to $452 each per fortnight.

If just one individual in a couple is working, they can earn up to $604 per fortnight. Based on a rate of $27 per hour, this would allow an individual on the full Age Pension to work for approximately 17 hours per fortnight, effectively earning a combined income of approximately $37,000 per annum, including the current age pension.

This opportunity would not only assist in overcoming the barriers community aged care providers are experiencing, but it would also offer this cohort the additional income, meaningful activity and flexible hours they are seeking.

National Seniors fought for and won this increase to the Work Bonus Scheme. While we argued Age Pensioners should be able to earn up to $10,000 a year without it affecting their pension, the increase to $7,800pa still makes working part-time much more rewarding.

In South Australia, one local aged care provider is putting this opportunity to work. My Care Solution is collaborating with TAFE SA and Don’t Overlook Mature Experience (DOME) to develop a part-time traineeship program that provides retirees the chance to re-enter the workforce.

Executive Director of My Care Solution, Mark McBriarty, said innovation by collaboration is essential when it comes to recruitment in the aged care industry.

“While returning to work is not normally the plan after retirement, statistics show many retirees around Australia take up work again – the cookie-cutter retirement experience is not for everyone,” he said.

“Forty per cent of our workforce is aged over 60, and we find this has a remarkable impact on the compatibility between our clients and our caregivers. We aim to increase this to 60 per cent by the end of 2019.”

The part-time traineeship requires participants to complete a minimum of 60 hours per month of work and study, which will reduce pension entitlement during the traineeship period. After completion of the program, participants will be able to reap the benefits of the new Work Bonus Scheme rules.

My Care Solution is offering 14 traineeships across Metropolitan Adelaide and six traineeships across the Fleurieu Peninsula. Applications for the traineeship program open 1 August 2018. The program starts 1 October 2018. Visit the website for more information.

Click here to listen to Chief Advocate Ian Henscke on ABC Radio Adelaide discussing the aged care workforce.

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