By Marissa Sandler CEO & Co-founder, Careseekers
In Australia today aged care and disability supports are delivered in a consumer directed care model via our aged care system and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). These models aim to put the consumer in the driver’s seat when accessing their support and care. This model aims to deliver personalised/tailored and high quality supports to the consumer.
This is different to how things used to be done - via block funding in the disability sector and the allocation of home care packages to providers in the aged care sector. A provider-centric approach.
Whether this consumer directed care model will deliver better outcomes and higher quality services than other models is topic for another debate and time. What is relevant for now is that it is the model in which these services are delivered today, and for the foreseeable future and how we can make this work for the people involved.
As you can imagine, delivering individualised, quality supports directed by the consumer has required new ways of doing things.
Enter online platforms.
Because they put the consumer in the driver's seat. An online platform allows the consumer to choose their own care or support worker and have supports delivered when they want them, at a more affordable price - or at least a very transparent price.
Online platforms are now part of our everyday lives - they deliver us, our food, we bank on them, we shop on them, find pet sitters on them and the list goes on. Like all things in life, online platforms take many different forms and are certainly not all created equal.
We are all adjusting to change
Online platforms may not be for everyone however they do provide everyone with access to services. They have changed the way we do business and run aspects of our lives and change takes time to adjust to in many ways - technology adjustments, social and economic changes.
Online platforms in other sectors like transport and food delivery have come under a lot of scrutiny for failing to provide the workers on their platforms, who are independent contractors, with a fair wage, protections should anything go wrong (insurances) or a safe work environment.
Careseekers, an online platform, connects consumers to aged care and disability support workers. The workers are independent contractors but it is different from those platforms in other sectors like food delivery and transport and below we will explain why.
Workers are not paid below minimum wage
The average worker on Careseekers earns $35 - $45 dollars an hour. The workers on our platform are independent contractors so yes, this is pre-tax and Super contribution but even once these are taken into account, this hourly rate is above the minimum award wage. Further, workers set their own rates - so those with greater and specialised skills can earn more.
Workers are insured
All workers on the Careseekers platform are covered by public liability, professional indemnity and personal accident insurance. Personal accident insurance is the equivalent of workers compensation insurance but for independent contractors. This insurance is provided by Careseekers. It is easy to access when needed and has been accessed by workers without issue.
Workers are treated well and (also) have choice and control
Wage stagnation combined with the cost of living today means people are taking on additional work. That cost of living is outpacing wages is a huge problem and the reality is that the gig economy is giving people an ability to access additional work in a flexible way.
In 2019, 7% of Australians were working in the gig economy and no doubt this number has grown since then.
We know that the majority of workers on the Careseekers platform are employed in other jobs and use Careseekers to supplement their income.
Careseekers enables people to find work around their other work and family responsibilities; earn a good hourly rate; be insured while they work; and have invoices followed up for payment on their behalf. Careseekers also has a free training portal for workers which we are always updating. Should anything go wrong we have dispute and grievance policies and procedures in place.
At Careseekers we strongly believe that workers must be paid a fair wage and have protections. And as we show, this can happen for independent workers using an online platform.
Online platforms are here to stay as they work for everyone (the consumer and supplier) and they will take different forms - some will employ their workers and some will use an independent contractor model.
Workers are not being forced into an independent contractor model in the aged care and disability space - they can access work through agencies and providers as employees; through online platforms that employ them; and through online platforms where they work as independent contractors.
The growing ecosystem in aged care and disability support means that workers increasingly have choice over how they work in these sectors.
The future of work will look different to how it has in the past. In the near future it will grapple with issues like a global pandemic, the cost of living outpacing wages and policy decisions like the delivery of aged care and disability supports through a consumer directed care model. It will require us to keep moving forward and being creative and innovative at every step of the way.
At Careseekers we believe this can be done without compromising worker rights to protections and fair pay.
Can online platforms (including us) do things better and set the benchmark for workers higher? I have no doubt that we can! Both an employment model and independent contract model can provide workers with decent pay, insurances, support and access to training. Let’s make moving towards best practice for both models the focus of any discussion we have around workers on online platforms.
To become a care or support worker, please visit www.careseekers.com.au/carer
To find disability support services, please visit www.careseekers.com.au/services/disability-support-workers
To find aged care services, please visit www.careseekers.com.au/services/aged-care-workers