With an increasing number of South Australians with disabilities receiving NDIS funding, the demand for services has never been higher – good news for people working within the sector, but bad news for disability service providers reeling from a shortage of new recruits.
It’s a dilemma shared by many organisations, including HenderCare, which has been providing disability and aged care services to the local community for almost 20 years. “It’s a struggle to find people who are available and qualified to work in the disability sector,” says Leonie McAuley, HenderCare chief human resources and in-house counsel. “We’re not getting the volume we’d hope to see, especially given the amount of work we have at the moment.”
A large part of the reason for the shortage of staff can be attributed to the closure of Australian international borders, but there are issues closer to home, too. “There’s a considerable amount of compliance required – a number of boxes to be ticked – before you can become a disability worker, and I think in some instances that might put people off,” McAuley says.
For those who tick all the boxes, the rewards go beyond a fulfilling job. “Given the amount of clients HenderCare has, there’s a huge variety of work for people,” McAuley says. “You can work for disability and aged care clients and there is a range of complexity, including personal care work in the home, social and community work and group work.”
Flexibility is also a major drawcard, with many employees working on a casual or part-time basis to suit their lives; while career advancement is another incentive. “We’ve had care attendant staff who have then gone to university to do a Bachelor of Nursing and continued to work for us along the way,” HenderCare CEO Amanda Blight says. “After completing their studying they work in the acute sector, but often they decide they love providing aged care services or working in the disability sector and so come back to us.
With the recent aged care royal commission finding more than 1000 younger people with a disability were admitted to residential aged care in the year to 30 September 2020 due to a lack of access to the level of disability services they need, recruiting staff is a priority for service providers across the country. “We want our clients to enjoy independence in their lives and to remain at home for as long as possible,” McAuley says. “We’re looking for people who are able to help facilitate people with disabilities to live their best lives.”
– Lynn Cameron