From 2021 more government funding may bolster aged care volunteering in Australia, if Royal Commission draft recommendations are followed.
Recommendation 51 of 124 recommendations from the Royal Commission’s Council Assisting calls for specific changes to “promote volunteers and volunteering in aged care to support older people to live a meaningful and dignified life”. Beginning 1 July 2021, these changes include mandatory volunteer management procedures, increased government grants funding for volunteer management and training, and extra funding and expansion of the Community Visitor Scheme.
Volunteering Australia CEO Mark Pearce says volunteers are engaged extensively in the aged care workforce. “They’re a really significant part of the provision of servicing and medical care to senior Australians,” he said.
The 2016 National Aged Care Workforce Census and Survey found that 83 per cent of residential facilities and 51 per cent of home care and home support outlets engaged the services of volunteers. Mr Pearce said Council Assisting’s recommendations would make volunteering a more strategic part of the overall aged care workforce.
“It’s around providing some appropriate structures, so that the provision of care, the quality of life, and the outcomes for senior Australians is more positive as a function of the integration of volunteer services.”
“The issues that sit around role differentiation are fundamentally important. Anything that’s not a paid position for health professionals, or ancillary staff, can be taken by volunteers. Development of programmes for mental health, social engagement, those sorts of things are ideally suited towards volunteer participation.”
Training is Key to Aged Care Volunteering
Meals on Wheels President Sharon Broer says she’s pleased with the recommendations, but that funding would have to follow through.
“It’s really pleasing that the role of volunteers in aged care has been recognised by counsel assisting in their draft recommendations,” Mrs Broer said. “It’s absolutely critical that for these recommendations to succeed, that there’s an appropriate level of increased funding to go with that.”
“The recommendations have an increased requirement on approved providers for some specific training and record keeping. Many Meals on Wheels volunteers are engaged with us for less than an hour a week. And so their involvement is quite brief, although it’s regular, and having the resources to have ongoing training … means that we’re going to need to put more resources into supporting our volunteers than what we do now.”
Mrs Broer said volunteer training is vital for volunteers to support seniors in various ways, from home deliveries to transport services.
“Volunteers are the frontline workers in organisations like Meals on Wheels. They’re the people who are going to the homes of some of our most vulnerable community members. And so they have a critical role in the quality and safety of the services that we’re delivering.
That goes across work health and safety. It goes across identifying hazards for the safety of the consumer in their own home. It also is about the role that Meals on Wheels has in monitoring the welfare and wellbeing of the people that we visit.”
The Royal Commission’s Final Report will be released on 26 February 2021.