Aged care beds go to staff amid housing crisis

Capecare agency staff Alana, Evelyn and Vida are offered accommodation at the care home. Pictures: Chad Jackson/ Capecare.
Capecare agency staff Alana, Evelyn and Vida are offered accommodation at the care home. Pictures: Chad Jackson/ Capecare.

A long-standing housing crisis and worker shortage across the state has caused a Busselton aged care home to offer free accommodation in a bid to recruit more staff.

Non-profit care home Capecare has turned some of its rooms into staff accommodation, as a way to attract staff amid a lack of available rental housing in the area.

The option to live on site is expected to attract agency nurses and care staff from Perth, with 14 bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms on offer to staff in the Busselton home.

Capecare president Joanne Penman told the Mail that the decision to offer accommodation to staff was made amid shortages in both housing and healthcare workers.

"Workforce shortages at Capecare and across the aged care sector have been getting worse for at least 12 months," she said.

"Accommodation is expensive and makes attracting new employees from other areas very difficult, particularly when paired with the extremely tight rental situation down here.

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"By offering rent-free accommodation, and partnering with agencies who specialise in contract placements for staff, we were able to come up with an attractive offering to come and work with us."

Capecare spans the Busselton facility and a smaller Dunsborough facility which opened late last year.

Ms Penman told the Mail the workforce shortage has slowed new client numbers at the Dunsborough facility.

"We are working hard to increase bed numbers there to ensure we can provide care to people in our local community that need our help," she said.

"The workforce is working under tight COVID restrictions and many in the sector are tired and stressed, yet wages remain low.

Calling for change: Capecare cheif executive Joanne Penman said the aged care sector is struggling with both a worker shortage and housing crisis. Picture: Supplied.

Calling for change: Capecare cheif executive Joanne Penman said the aged care sector is struggling with both a worker shortage and housing crisis. Picture: Supplied.

"Nurses can earn more working in public sector hospitals and we compete directly with the local hospitals who are also recruiting."

Ms Penman called on the government for greater recognition of the skills required to work in aged care, higher wages and more time for workers to spend with older people.

Ms Penman said Capecare supported the Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC), a group of six peak bodies in aged care that are calling for three key changes. These are a pay supplement, a minimum wage increase and a "commitment to a multidisciplinary workforce, with an allied health needs assessment and funding model by July 2024".

Real Estate Insitute (WA) vice-president Joe White told the Mail that aged care was just one of many sectors struggling with an ongoing housing market crisis across the state.

"That's the sort of strike that comes in when you have a housing shortage. You can't offer affordable housing to the most critical people that society needs to operate fairly and effectively," he said.

Mr White said the housing problem has been evolving over the last decade, but was brought to a head when the COVID-19 pandemic sparked the WA government's freeze on ends of leases in early 2021.

"A lot of owners elected to sell their rental properties. So we had two things happening, an increase in the demand for them and a decrease in supply," he said.

"You do have to call it a crisis, because it is."

BUILD MORE: REIWA vice-president Joe White says the solution to . Photo: File Image.

BUILD MORE: REIWA vice-president Joe White says the solution to . Photo: File Image.

Mr White said that the solution to the state-wide lack of affordable rentals was building more houses to increase market competition.

"We need to concentrate on increasing the size of the cake, not fight about smaller cakes divided up," he said.

Enrolled Nurse Alana recently started working at Capecare, and said she was staying at Capecare while in the process of buying a house in Perth.

"Working remotely is an amazing opportunity to grow your career and earn some extra money and at the moment there's plenty of demand," she said.

It comes as Capecare has advertised several positions currently available at the aged care home.

Capecare agency staff Alana, Evelyn, Vida and Ramadani are offered accommodation at the care home. Picture: Chad Jackson.

Capecare agency staff Alana, Evelyn, Vida and Ramadani are offered accommodation at the care home. Picture: Chad Jackson.