By Professor Meg Morris, Executive Director - Academic and Research and Collaborative in Health
The global COVID-19 pandemic created major care workforce shortages, which exacerbated the existing and growing difficulties in recruiting and retaining paid workers and volunteers in the care sector. These workforce shortages have been particularly evident in aged care, disability and mental health services, and similarly, healthcare organisations have also struggled to keep up with demands on nurses, doctors and allied health professionals. Many other key sectors of the care economy such as youth services, family services and family violence, childcare, social housing, indigenous services and rural health have also been challenged by difficulties in recruiting, retaining and training a skilled workforce.
Care delivery, the services provided to a person, such as nursing care, physiotherapy or social services have also been impacted by the pandemic, with a rapid pivot to digital delivery of many health, disability and social services, necessitating new evidence-based methods of service delivery. Climate change has been associated with increasing climate variability in Australia, which has put additional pressure on the care economy, Care needs increasing with floods, bushfires and storms whilst care has been more difficult to deliver during these climate events.
Yet amidst these challenges, opportunities have emerged.
Digital technologies and advanced manufacturing have risen to the fore, and new wearable sensors, technology assisted mobility devices, webcams and virtual reality devices are helping people to maintain their independence in home, community and care settings. Care delivery has been transformed by digital innovations and technology-assisted delivery modes.
Researchers and industry partners are working together to create a care workforce map showing workforce demand and supply for different regions of Australia. This will enable policy makers to plan where to grow the future care workforce. New career pathways are being devised so that care workers can easily move across different care sectors, supported by engaging education and training.
Through these changes, new ways of bringing together the silos of the care economy have been understood and implemented, with the learnings identified shared amongst the sector. By understanding these impacts and opportunities, and how policy makers, service delivery agencies, professionals and consumers can best prepare for them. A major focus is to understand how the Australian Care Economy can benefit from a combined and united approach to solving key problems. Consumers and care recipients with lived experience of care delivery are at the forefront, and are integral to co-design, co-delivery and evaluation of new programs, services and technologies to transform the sector, for the benefit of all Australians.
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