Leading Aged Services Australia slams 'shameful' change in COVID support package

Aged care body slams 'shameful' change in COVID support package

Aged care workers have slammed the federal government for a "broken promise" over its COVID-19 relief package.

The government in March announced a $239.9 million "retention bonus" scheme that would provide two payments "after tax per quarter" of $800 for direct care workers and $600 for home carers.

But Leading Aged Services Australia said new rules for the scheme revealed the retention bonus would be capped at $800 and $600 respectively and be taxed.

Chief executive Sean Rooney said it was "shameful that what was announced is not being delivered".

"We estimate that the government is taking at least $50 million out of the pockets of aged care staff, by effectively reducing the promised bonus paid to these tireless workers, who have done and are continuing to do, their best to protect the most at-risk older Australians from COVID-19," he said.

"Typical aged care workers, earning between $37,001 to $90,000 a year, will lose over 30 per cent of their payment and perhaps more if they are receiving other means tested benefits or have a HECS debt."

But Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck said the retention bonus payments constituted income "and as such is subject to income tax".

"This is consistent with other COVID-19 measures, such as JobKeeper," he said.

"The amount of tax an individual pays will depend on their marginal tax rate."

But the bigger problem with the retention bonus was that it excluded workers who don't provide care directly, Aged Care Deloraine chief executive Charlie Emmerton said.

"There's a whole number of other people that together make up a team to provide care in aged care homes and that's the catering staff, the cleaning staff, the laundry staff, the maintenance staff and the administration," he said.

"All those people are just as important to the care though they might not give direct care."

Mr Emmerton said it was "a strange decision by government" to not include these types of workers, which he said represented 35 to 40 per cent his workforce.

"It's like rewarding the back line and the centre line for winning a Premiership but not the forwards and the rucks," he said.

"Everybody's role is just as important as the others, it's just different."

The concerns about eligibility were shared by Leading Aged Services Australia.

Mr Rooney said the government needed to "make the bonus payment more equitable and extend it to all staff working to protect vulnerable older Australians receiving care".

Senator Colbeck said there were "no plans to change eligibility arrangements".

This story Aged care body slams 'shameful' change in COVID support package first appeared on The Advocate.