30 MayA national approach to the care and support economy

Posted on 30 May 2023

On Sunday, 28 May the Draft National Strategy for the Care and Support Economy was released.

ELAA have made meaningful input to the strategy, both through the Senate Committee into Work and Care and more recently, by attending the Care and Support Roundtable.

The Draft Strategy is an acknowledgement that the care sector, which includes aged care, disability, veteran’s care and Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC), is part of our social infrastructure.

Although ECEC hovers between education and care, it is heavily impacted by outcomes and actions in other care workforces. While each workforce is different, all are predominately female dominated and low paid. Investment in this sector boosts gender equity and economic outcomes, both in the short term and sustained. Policy makers are also aware that incentives in one workforce can drive shortages in another, as we’ve seen recently with ECEC workers shifting to higher paid NDIS roles. Therefore, government planning across sectors is welcomed.

The Draft Strategy includes a series of action plans, and the Priority Workforce Initiatives Action Plan is first up. This plan will be critical as workforce shortages continue to grow and will look at what works to attract and keep workers across the sector and share outcomes from initiatives.

Migration pathways for low paid workers will be part of the solution, as will investment in career pathways. We know we rely on migrants in ECEC, especially for our casual labour pool, and the supply of migrant ECEC workers dried up during COVID. Harmonising worker screening is also being discussed, which would be a blessing for the ECEC workforce where different state requirements and working with children checks pose difficulties for both staff and employers.

Wages are noted as a key factor in driving attraction and retention, and we look forward to the Australian government co-funding wage increases in ECEC.

A crucial longer term strategy is the Market Design Action Plan. This is about helping to ensure governments support quality providers to grow, and develop solutions for where the market isn’t working.

We are seeing ECEC services flooding areas where there are existing, quality providers. This exacerbates workforce shortages and at times prompts the closure of existing services, whilst other areas of the country experience a shortage of ECEC services.

ELAA welcomes a more active government role in growing quality provision of ECEC services. Without a more active hand from the government, the quality-driven community not-for-profit sector, which often lacks access to reserves and capital, will struggle to grow.

The draft strategy signals perhaps a new, more interventionist government position to actively support quality and address market failure, as well as a recognition of the economic value of the care sector.

To read the Draft National Strategy for the Care and Support Economy, please CLICK HERE.

ELAA Acting CEO, Megan O’Connell, was interviewed on Channel 10 News regarding the draft strategy. Click the link below to watch the interview (Megan appears about two minutes in).

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