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Thursday, April 25, 2024

National Seniors: Budget misses mark on care workforce shortages

National Seniors Australia says the Federal Government’s Budget has missed an opportunity to fix crippling workforce shortages in the health, aged and social assistance sector.

There are currently more than 74,000 job vacancies in the critical Health Care and Social Assistance sector, which includes aged care, disability care, child care and health.

National Seniors Australia Chief Advocate, Ian Henschke said the workforce crisis in the care sector could be eased by allowing pensioners to work, and work more, without being financially penalised.

“National Seniors Australia wants to work with the government and we think a stronger incentive is needed,” said Mr Henschke.

National Seniors Australia Chief Advocate, Ian Henschke.

“Modelling by Deloitte shows if more than 8.3% of pensioners rejoined the workforce and worked more our policy to exempt work income would make money for government on income tax alone.

“For sectors desperate for workers such as health, aged, disability and child care we need a full income exemption to fill shortages. A two-year trial is the next step. And it should happen in the May 2023 Budget.

“Letting pensioners work in the care sector without being penalised is a win for government, a win for the economy and a win for pensioners.

“There are always things government can do to improve peoples’ lives that won’t cost money. This is only one,” said Mr Henschke.

The peak seniors advocacy body, however, was pleased to see the Federal Government deliver on some election promises in last night’s Budget to ease cost of living pressures for older Australians.

These include:
• Freezing deeming rates for pensioners and other payments for two years, regardless of changes to the RBA cash rate;
• Increasing the income test threshold used to determine eligibility for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card so 44,000 more self-funded retirees get access to concessions;
• Legislating for a registered nurse on site in aged care homes at all times of the day;
• Supporting an increase to aged care workers’ wages through the Fair Work Commission
• Lowering the cost of medicines by $12.50 to a maximum cost of $30.

“These initiatives are welcome, but we need to address workforce shortages. We hoped the budget included additional measures to boost workforce participation,” said Mr Henschke.

“The $4,000 income credit to the Work Bonus announced after the Jobs and Skills Summit was a good first step, but the government needs to follow through and give pensioners and employers greater certainty. Stopping the increase to the Work Bonus in June 2023, will not do that,” he said.

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