HomeHealthAged CareReforms are producing an aged care supply crisis, provider warns

Reforms are producing an aged care supply crisis, provider warns

Aged care reforms have created an unwanted side-effect – insufficient growth to meet demand.

Aged care homes are growing the number of beds at only half the rate of the previous five years. And that is placing significant strain on the industry as a whole, say providers.

Bolton Clarke, Australia’s largest not-for-profit aged care provider, has analysed the government’s data, which it says highlights a potential supply crisis. Bolton Clarke policy executive Tim Hicks says all providers must prioritise new infrastructure investment to avoid aged care supply shortfalls.

“We have evidence that demand is growing faster than it has been,” he says.

An increase over the past year was likely driven by Australia’s ageing population, he postulated, which puts the industry “in a tricky situation where the recent investment environment makes it harder to build new stock”.

The other side of the aged care equation

But there is another factor driving industry shortages, says Mr Hicks, one resulting from government reforms. New staffing requirements are discouraging providers from expanding their services due to a shortfall of available workers, he says.

These changes include a requirement for a registered nurse at every facility at all times and mandated care minutes. The reforms were due to be implemented this week. While few would argue with the aim of the reforms, they may prove to be a short-term double-edged sword.

Aged Care Industry Association chief executive Peter Hoppo says providers are attempting to meet these requirements by reducing occupancy levels. This could result in the ‘haves’ having better care than ever but a rising number of ‘have-nots’.

“We know that our population is ageing rapidly,” Mr Hoppo says. “We must see much more investment in the sector now if we want to ensure that people continue to have the quality aged care support and services they need.”

What the government says

While the rate of growth has fallen, there is still growth, a fact the Albanese government is keen to emphasise. Aged care minister Anika Wells says the number of residential aged care places has continued to increase each year.

The 2023 figure of 225,388 is up from 217,067 in 2019, Ms Wells says. She also lauded her government’s nursing reforms as resulting in better care for elderly Australians.

Ms Wells also points to other reforms that support aged Australians who want to remain at home for longer. This has led to “a 14 per cent increase in the number of people with access to a home-care package in the past year”, she says.

It reflects “what older Australians have repeatedly told us they want – to remain independent in their homes for as long as possible”, she says.

Whether the government’s reforms will prove adequate remains to be seen. The answer is likely to present itself soon enough, though, based on current projections.

The latest Intergenerational Report projects an increasing life expectancy for Australians. For men life expectancy is projected to increase from 81.3 years to 87 years over the next four decades. For women over the same period, a rise from 85.2 years to 89.5 years is forecast.

Caring will be a challenge that faces communities and governments, present and future.

Has Australia done enough when it comes to aged care? What else do our governments need to do? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Also read: Age Pension ‘burden’ expected to shrink – but aged care costs will balloon

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigaczhttps://www.patreon.com/AndrewGigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.


  1. I have a son who is an RN working in aged care. He says the pressure is becoming too much and some RN’s are moving on. He has resigned from full time work and become a casual so he can better choose his hours as his employer was demanding a ton of overtime to meet the new mandatory requirements. This is stressing staff as the hours are excessive.
    The pay is now fantastic but humans can only work so many hours before exhaustion sets in and mistakes get made.
    So while the changes the government has made are well intentioned they are turning out to be detrimental for everyone because there are not enough qualified workers available for all the required care positions to be filled.

    • The pay is fantastic.
      That is inaccurate. Aged care RN’s are in poor pay. And less than if work in hospital. Ask him if he is paid comfortable wage. Never mind fantastic.
      All nurses underpaid. We can’t jerk Uk with rent , food etc.
      why work your butt off and big have a dent to spend on fun.
      Nursing is not a career I’d recommend. Hence the shortage.
      Last week at work we all said we would not recommend anyone we cared about to go into nursing. It’s a hard line with small income. One new grad had $36000 debt and want to leave nursing Already .
      I’d like to see the govt increase wages. Attract people to nursing. Increase staffing in aged care. Old people are so important. That’s our family. Mums. Dads. We want to know they are well looked after.
      Registered nurses in aged care are so stressed and underpaid. This needs to change. Elderly are so so important to us all.
      I would return to aged care but pay us too poor to contemplate it. And my health is important too.

      • Recent pay rises in the sector have made the money pretty good. He was on a base rate of $43 an hour when full time, but often higher because of shift penalties and excessive overtime like multiple double shifts. Gross pay was around $5,000 a fortnight but the hours and work-load was killing him.
        So wages are not the biggest problem. Staff burnout and the impossibility of finding additional qualified staff is. You can not increase staff if nobody applies for the jobs. So IMO something is going to have to give because in current circumstances aged care homes can not deliver on their mandatory staffing requirements.

  2. Aged Care service is helpful but from then on it is a nightmare. I had no expectation I would need help this year until I was diagnosed with a fatal cancer. Then when I discovered how the system works! The sick people unless you have a lot of money or employ providers who offer no reassurances that the people they are recommending have Police checks, blue cards etc. The big providers do check out all their staff but have no vacancies in most demand areae. In 8 months I have managed to obtain some grab rails in my bathrooms, get a visit from the OT and a few aids. No meals, help when I am at my sickest and lonely. Do not get me started on Nursing Homes who have been raking in the money for years but now they have to pay correct wages, staff correctly, etc they some of them have dropped the ball. Without family people like me can just hit their heads against a brick wall.

    • I am in the same position Jilly B no family to help me out. I have had to let my teeth go which are not in good condition cannot afford to go Also need an eye check up & have problems there too. but same thing cannot afford to go . The nursing homes charge a fortune. we are lucky have great staff. Judy B

  3. Aged care, like disability care, has no place being in the for-profit sector. It is silly to extract money from the system to pay to shareholders.
    All welfare should be paid for by the government, with an accountable MP in charge, and any ‘profits’ made should be ploughed back into the welfare sector.
    Employees should be given good incentives to stay in the job and further their career.

    We should not be trying to extract profits from sectors that don’t naturally make profits. We can still have capitalism, just not in areas of welfare.

    • It was obvious that this would happen from the moment the Gov introduced the legislation. 24 hour RN’s on site would just not work. It is not possible to provide that service, although it is a great idea in theory, from the current workforce. David Ryder is correct, there is just not enough people in the system to staff existing care, let alone provide more staff to expand this care.

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