Updated 13 July 2021
Volunteers are a vital part of the aged care workforce, supporting the wellbeing of older people in their homes and in residential settings. Volunteers should be considered strategically in workforce planning and should not be undertaking roles that are more appropriately done by paid staff.
Volunteering Australia is actively advocating on behalf of volunteers involved in community and residential aged care. Nurturing and investing in the volunteering workforce will help ensure older people get the care and support they need and deserve.
As a priority, we are advocating and engaging with decision makers for the inclusion of volunteers in the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety
The final report of The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety recommended better support for volunteers. Volunteering Australia welcomed the report and highlighted recommendation 44 as an important step forward in providing vital support for volunteers.
The Commissioners recognised volunteers are “an integral part of the aged care system”. The report proposed that the Australian Government better fund organisations in the sector to support their volunteers through designated supervision and training, and to offer extended volunteer support for those in aged care and at risk of social isolation.
Recommendation 44: Volunteers and Aged Care Volunteer Visitors Scheme (page 239)
From 1 July 2021, the Australian Government should promote volunteers and volunteering in aged care to support older people to live a meaningful and dignified life and supplement the support and care provided to them through the aged care system, whether in their own home or in a residential care home, by:
a. increasing the funding to the Volunteer Grants under the Families and Communities Program – Volunteer Grants Activity in 2021–22 to support organisations and community groups to recruit, train and support volunteers who provide assistance to older people
b. requiring, as a condition of approval and continuing approval of all approved providers, that all aged care services which use volunteers to deliver in-house coordinated and supervised volunteer programs must:
i. assign the role of volunteer coordination to a designated staff member
ii. provide induction training to volunteers and regular ongoing training to volunteers in caring for and supporting older people, complaints management and the reporting of reasonably suspected abuse or neglect
iii. retain evidence of provision of such training
c. providing additional funding, and expanding the Community Visitors Scheme and changing its name to the Aged Care Volunteer Visitors Scheme, to provide extended support for older people receiving aged care who are at risk of social isolation.
The Commonwealth Government response
On 11 May, the Commonwealth Government responded to the final report and accepted Recommendation 44.
Recommendation 44: Volunteers and Aged Care Volunteer Visitors Scheme
The Government accepts this recommendation. The Government currently provides $10 million per annum to support volunteers servicing all sectors in the community, including the aged care sector, through the Volunteer Grants program. The program provides small grants of between $1,000 and $5,000 to help community organisations to support the efforts of Australia’s volunteers.
From 1 July 2021, the Australian Government will provide funding under the Volunteer Management Activity to Volunteering Peak Bodies to develop and implement strategies to build the capacity of Volunteer Involving Organisations, primarily through online volunteer management services, and breaking down barriers to volunteering for identified priority groups.
The Government will consider future funding and design of the Community Visitors Scheme at the same time as finalising the design and funding model for a new support at home program.
Volunteering Australia’s submission to the the Royal Commission
Volunteering Australia’s submission to the Royal Commission asked that they reflect the following principles in their final report and recommendations:
- Volunteers are an integral part of the aged care workforce.
- Effective strategic workforce planning includes volunteers.
- Volunteer and paid worker roles need to be differentiated.
- Volunteer management needs to be appropriately funded.
- The challenges facing volunteering in aged care need to be addressed.
- Older people should be supported to volunteer for as long as they are able.
Volunteering Australia’s advocacy for volunteers in aged care
Our recent and ongoing advocacy work in relation to volunteering in aged care includes:
- A submission to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
- A letter to the Minister for Aged Care, Senator Colbeck, drawing his attention to the impact of COVID-19 on volunteering in aged care.
- A supplementary submission re COVID19 impact to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
- A Pre-Budget Submission to inform the 2021-22 Federal Budget, which called for investment in the aged care volunteer workforce.
- A Position Statement on the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out advocating that frontline aged care volunteers in community and residential settings need to be included in the early phases of roll-out.
- Ongoing discussions with officials and advisers at the Australian Government Department of Health.
- Raising awareness of the role of volunteers in aged care, through media and direct communications with stakeholders.
In the coming months, Volunteering Australia will continue to advocate for volunteers engaged in aged care and their involvement in the reform process in light of the Royal Commission’s findings.
For further information or if you would like to share your experience of volunteering or volunteer management in aged care, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org