Linking Quality Aged Care with Employee Job Quality

Nov 15
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Australian aged care policy, as in many other OECD countries, has been centrally concerned with improving the quality of aged care services. Yet in most of the policy debates and discussions about care quality we hear little about the workers who provide that care, other than that they need to have the ‘right skills’ or ‘right personality’ to work with the aged, including with specific groups such as those with dementia.

There is little attention paid to the role of wages and working conditions in recognising and sustaining the aged care workforce into the future. Nor has there been much attention paid to the ways in which the job design of aged care work impacts on the quality of the care provided. 

However, both Australian and international research shows that beyond wages one of the most crucial issues for aged care workers both within residential and community-based aged care is ‘having the time to care’ and that for aged care recipients, workers spending ‘enough time’ to develop the care relationship in ways that meets the individual needs of a particular aged person is also crucial. Indeed as Professor Pat Armstrong from Canada has argued, “the conditions of work are the conditions of care”.

In my presentation at the forthcoming Aged Care Workforce Development Conference I want to put job quality on the Australian aged care workforce agenda and draw out the links between better job quality and improved care quality in practice.

I will be drawing on a large action research project funded by the Department of Social Services to explore how small-scale changes in work practices and work organisation can both improve the quality of the jobs of aged care workers and the quality of the care service provided. The Quality Jobs Quality Care project is being undertaken in partnership with three large care providers and the main aged care union, United Voice.

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Submitted by Professor Sara Charlesworth

Professor Sara Charlesworth

Professor Sara Charlesworth is an ARC Future Fellow Professor in the School of Management at RMIT University and is a member of the Centre for Sustainability, Organisation and Work in the College of Business. Together with Associate Professor Deb King, Flinders University, Sara is a Chief Investigator on a Department of Social Services-funded project, ‘Quality Care and Quality Jobs: Improving work practices to deliver quality aged care jobs & aged care services for older Australians’, in partnership with Brightwater Care, HammondCare, Helping Hand and United Voice.

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