Government Retention Bonus misses the mark

It’s been just three months since the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator Colbeck said, “It is vital we support those working in aged care to keep senior Australians across every community healthy and supported during this difficult time". However, the Government’s Aged Care Retention Bonus Grant has already taken a backflip.

As an independent, not-for-profit residential aged care provider, Peninsula Villages is making its voice heard with its Chief Executive Officer sending an open letter to the Government to highlight just how insufficient this grant is with its poor definition of a ‘direct care worker’.

“The additional funding promised by the Government was to support and help the sector to stay strong, including a Retention Bonus Grant for aged care workers. But the Commonwealth will only offer financial support to ‘direct care’ workers. Shame on you Government,” says Peninsula Villages Chief Executive Officer Shane Neaves.

“Any management, human resources or workplace culture specialist will reveal that the promotion of equality, teamwork and an engaged workforce will lead to increased productivity, retention and success.

“So, what does the Government Retention Bonus for Aged Care workers do? Splits the most important factor in providing holistic care – it divides the workforce into those rewarded and those not. It does this at a time when everyone needs to work as a team and be acknowledged for the important role they play in providing holistic care.

“I openly invite the Government to address the ‘non-direct care’ workers who have risked their own personal safety to work in the aged care sector and provide important interaction with our residents as to why they aren’t being rewarded. Only recognising one side of the sector is poor form,” he continued.

Peninsula Villages cares for more than 300 residents across its three facilities on the NSW Central Coast and the Government’s Aged Care Retention Bonus fails to reward many who play a valued role in the care of its residents.

“Jodie is our Laundry Supervisor, she deals daily with infection, heavily soiled linen and resident’s personal items. Her goal is to make our residents feel valued by providing a personal linen service so that residents feel presentable and take pride in their appearance – but she is not considered part of the Commonwealth’s definition of ‘direct care’ – no retention bonus, shameful,” explains Shane.

“Lyn in Environmental Services. Her goal is to maintain and present resident’s rooms and common areas, ensuring a clean and safe environment and so much additional work has been incurred with cleaning due to COVID-19. The environment and living spaces ensure our residents have pride in their surroundings and in their home, feeling valued and safe. However, again this is not part of the Commonwealth’s definition of ‘direct care’ – so no retention bonus, just plain mean.

“Greg is in Grounds Management. His goal is to provide gardens and grounds that encourage our residents to actively participate in their environment, either walking, planting or just finding a sunny spot to sit and reflect. So, a welcoming, natural and healthy environment isn’t important to the holistic care of a resident? Aged care residents take pride in their open spaces and environment. But once again not defined by the Commonwealth as ‘direct care’. But one would argue an important service. No retention bonus – just tight.

“Sharon is in Catering Services. Sharon’s goal is to provide nutritious menus, that are enjoyable, offering choice and variety to residents. The importance of eating in a resident’s day is just as important as any other ‘direct care’ need. No food, no health! But the Commonwealth does not see this as ‘direct care’.

“Doug is our Maintenance Officer. His goal is to provide not only preventative maintenance, but he looks after the facility so that all our residents know they are in a safe and secure environment. He is there for all the little things residents need assistance with such as tuning the TV/radio or hanging a picture. Once again, providing a safe, secure and well-maintained property that residents enjoy. A key factor to their care is that they feel safe and secure – but no retention bonus – why?

“Finally, Sue in reception. Sue provides high level assistance to our residents and their families with all their day to day functions. Her goal is to be involved assisting our residents in maintaining an active lifestyle. Whether it is assisting with direction to activities, family concerns or organising outings, this role is key to residents feeling safe and involved in their community. But once again – not considered ‘direct care’ - the front line of the organisation,” added Shane.

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For the industry, laundry services, environmental/cleaning services, grounds/garden services, catering services, maintenance services and administration services all play an extremely important role in the ‘direct care’ of residential aged care residents. It’s no surprise that if these roles weren’t all involved in the resident’s lives, then holistic care would be significantly compromised.

“Again, I invite you to explain to these key staff members why their role in a resident’s life is not seen to be direct and therefore rewarded,” continued Shane.

“The aged care sector in Australia has worked hard and done an incredible job to protect our older Australians, despite all the extra hard work and the administrative burden that has been added due to the COVID-19 pandemic - to an already over-burdened and underfunded sector.

“Despite the Government finding out there was a $60 billion-dollar error (presumably resulting in extra money to be used) it still refuses to act fairly to all Aged Care workers.

“Shame on you all. Once again highlighting the Government’s lack of understanding of the ways in which the sector provides a truly healthy and holistic environment for our older Australians,” he concluded.