VMCH CEO Sonya Smart has written directly to the Prime Minister requesting a review of the retention bonus eligibility criteria.
Ms Smart says that like many organisations in the sector, VMCH welcomes initiatives to support employees who are on the frontline of safeguarding vulnerable older people, however, the ‘eligibility anomalies’ are creating unnecessary alarm, anger and resentment from staff.
“In an industry which already faces a great deal of public scrutiny, I believe the arbitrary eligibility criteria are contributing to devaluing of our staff members’ perceived level of contribution to the safety and wellbeing of our residents and clients.”
Ms Smart says the issues, which have been raised by industry organisations Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) and Leading Age Service Australia (LASA), need to be relayed to the Prime Minister and Ministers responsible for the bonus scheme.
“We appreciate all of our staff, and they deserve to feel valued and recognised, especially at a time of additional pressures and emotional stress. I would like to think that our Government would understand that all of our staff have a role to play in ensuring our residents are happy, healthy and safe.”
Ms Smart says she has received feedback from staff who have expressed their anger and frustration around their lack of eligibility when colleagues they work alongside are eligible for the retention bonus.
“Our ineligible staff are very unhappy about not receiving the payment. Many feel that it is inequitable, which ultimately does not promote the idea of staff cohesion in our residences.
“I will continue to advocate on behalf of all of our staff, because they all play an incredibly valuable role in the care of our residents. We have to remember that our residents and clients are the most vulnerable people in the community right now, and we need all of our staff to know they are working together to keep them safe.”
Rebecca Healy, Residential Services Manager at VMCH’s Willowbrooke Aged Care Residence in Upper Ferntree Gully says that lifestyle, kitchen, pastoral care and reception staff have been working just as hard as direct care workers.
“With the visiting restrictions and no volunteers for support, our lifestyle and pastoral care teams had to implement extra measures for communication between families and residents. This included working extra time to ensure residents were engaged and entertained through additional activities, as well as facilitating the communication with families.
“They also had to implement extra strategies for residents to minimise responsive behaviours due to not having visitors and not being able to go out in the community. Administration staff are now coordinating and monitoring visitation requirements, completing extra documentation and managing vaccination evidence. These staff are not eligible for the retention bonus.”
“Our staff are working just as hard as the direct care staff. All are on an equal footing, so we don’t understand why certain staff would deserve this payment and not others.”