Our Executive Director of Disability, Ageing and Carers, Michael Woodhouse, was recently a panellist at The Work and Care Summit 2022. The summit brought together government and industry leaders, researchers and advocates to highlight the need for family inclusive workplaces and increased paid work participation, engagement and productivity for carers. 

Michael participated in a discussion focused on the major challenges facing the care economy and how these can be addressed. Below he shares his thoughts on these issues. 

“Right now, we’re still in a place where critical parts of the care economy aren’t necessarily funded at sustainable levels or organised in ways that can actually meet a lot of demand,” says Michael. 

The biggest issue

Michael emphasises that workforce shortages in areas such as allied health and in home support workers is the most critical issue for the formal care sector. “Workforce shortages limit the ability of service organisations to meet demand, putting extra pressure on unpaid carers to fill the gap. This could reduce the number of hours worked by people with caring responsibilities or at its worst lead to people leaving employment altogether. 

“If we’re interested in how people balance work and care, work and family, then a sustainable, reliable, properly organised formal care economy is critical. A reliable formal care sector, with secure funding that provides predictable services, will allow more people to use flexible work arrangements so that they can care for loved ones and maintain economic security.”

Michael says the formal care economy will need to keep changing as more and more people find ways to combine work with caring for older parents and people with disability.  
“We’re going to need to really think about what will change in the way in which informal care is able to be provided, particularly as carers are in employment.

“The model we might have had 20 or 30 years ago of carers, often women, leaving the workforce to care for ageing parents full time, is not a sustainable model that will help us knit formal and informal care together in the future.”

Where to next?

Michael calls for greater collaboration between major employers and care organisations to understand how the care sector needs to be organised to provide high quality services to those who need them, support for informal carers and assist business to retain staff.

“About 20 years ago we had a good run of major employers recognising how important childcare was to helping their employees balance parenting of young children and being at work. We saw a spate of big corporate buildings with childcare centres at the bottom, as a practical way of trying to make that possible. It won’t be the same solution, but I wonder if we need similar conversations around how carers, workplaces and service organisations could work together on caring for older parents or people with disabilities.”

Carer Gateway is here to support

Michael highlighted that there are support services currently available to carers. “One of the pieces of work that I’m really glad The Benevolent Society is involved in is being a provider as part of the Carer Gateway, which is a service for people who are caring often for older parents, or partners, or family members with disability.”

For more information about the Carer Gateway service, click here or visit carergateway.gov.au or call 1800 422 737.