As the Federal government this week commits some $4bn to support major reform within the troubled Aged Care sector, Aussie fintech Wagestream has signed up a string of key sector players to its charity-founded financial wellbeing platform.

Southern Cross Care, Vacenti, and CareChoice all signed up to offer Wagestream’s financial wellbeing tools to their staff in quick succession this month, in a bid to help attract talent back to a sector facing a nationwide staffing shock.

With the sector hit by an historic staffing exodus, the major aged care and caring businesses are looking to become more attractive to current and potential staff through the tech-driven financial wellbeing platform’s unique set of tools – designed for employees and built around pay – to address the current talent and hiring crises.

Wagestream describes itself as a charity-founded financial wellbeing app which makes work more inclusive, fair and rewarding by giving employees access to fair financial services built around their pay.

Across the board, Southern Cross Care Queensland, Vacenti, and CareChoice employ around 2,500 staff caring for over 10,000 vulnerable Australians.

They join a cohort of over 500,000 aged and health care employees already on the Wagestream platform globally, which includes Bupa and 300,000 National Health Service (NHS) employees in the UK alone.

The adoption of a tech-based ‘financial wellbeing’ strategy for Australian aged care workers could help to address the growing national staffing crisis and the inherent structural challenges faced by the industry if overseas examples are anything to go by.

A frontline workforce in need

Josh Vernon, Wagestream Australia CEO told Stockhead that aged care is notoriously low-paid, with many – predominantly female – workers living paycheck to paycheck.

“These critical frontline workers are struggling to align income with expenses, and to exacerbate things there are the people being hit with added “poor penalties” from late fees and the use of costly credit cards or payday loans just to get by.”

Even more troubling, Vernon adds that there’s also been a significant lengthening of pay periods for employees – sometimes even beyond a month – as a result of widespread part-time shift work and reliance on agencies for work placement.

And its large proportion of older, English-as-a-Second language (ESL), and immigrant staff can also struggle with financial literacy and reading proficiency, and extra financial commitments like remittance payments.

To combat this, Wagestream provides a “Flexible Pay” feature opening access to a percentage of their earned wages to avoid the poor penalty, while its “Track” feature (the most-used feature globally) lets employees see their earnings in real-time, so they know when to pick up extra shifts.

The “Grow” feature lets employees automate transfers to bridge savings gaps incurred through caring obligations and part-time work, while “Coach” offers live chat with money coaches to work through financial behaviours, goal setting, action plans, and any unique financial queries.

All of these tools in tandem could help to improve the financial security, engagement, education, literacy, and overall wellbeing of employees in the caring sector according to Wagestream.

Aged care reform

According to the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, Tuesday’s Federal  Budget further invests $522 million into aged care reform.

It takes the Albanese Government’s commitment to sectoral reforms to a total $18.8 billion.

“Australia’s aged care sector has been neglected for too long. This Budget takes the first steps to deliver on reforms to ensure older Australians in care are treated with the respect they deserve with a $3.9 billion package of reforms,” Butler said in a statement this week.

On top of it all, Vernon says the aged care sector has been among the very hardest hit by COVID-19, which is now stretching into its third year.

“We are witnessing the effects of years of overwork, stress, fear, loss, and sadness. Many workers are exhausted and reassessing what is truly important – including their place of employment,” Vernon says.

“But many of the issues weighing on the sector also existed prior to the pandemic, which simply exacerbated them.”

These are the workers, he says, Australian families depend upon during what can be the hardest times in their lives.

“And these are also the ones always harder-hit by the economic challenges of the day – like the current cost of living pressures.

“Employers in the caring sector must urgently recognise that the financial wellbeing of their employees is inextricably linked to their job satisfaction and productivity.

“Forward-thinking employers will therefore find ways to offer practical tools and actionable tips that address these unique challenges and allow employees to live more comfortably, so they can better enjoy their work.”

Southern Cross Care

Southern Cross Care Queensland (SCCQ) partnered with Wagestream in July 2022, and now offers the app to over 1,100 staff caring for more than 2,000 vulnerable Australians. One in every four SCCQ team members has already used the Wagestream app in the short time it’s been available.

According to SSCQ’s Head of People and Culture, Adam Priest, staff engagement just has to be more than ‘thanks for coming to our monthly barbeque’.

“Staff are looking for employers who understand their unique struggles, and offer tangible ways to support their physical, mental, and financial wellbeing.

“As an example, our female-dominated workforce comes from many diverse backgrounds, so their financial circumstances might involve additional caring obligations, or remittance payments to family abroad. When approaching their financial wellbeing, these different circumstances must be considered.”

Priest says he believes the Wagestream financial wellbeing app absolutely offers simple advantages to the majority of SSCQ frontline workers.

“It offers ways to grow your savings and set goals, and as we head into quite a turbulent time with inflation and interest rate rises, people are obviously also looking for support in this space. We’re really pleased and not at all surprised that a quarter of our staff have already had a go on the app, and we expect this number to increase.

“We strongly believe that looking after and caring for our staff and their families will naturally lead to better talent attraction and retention,” Priest says.

“Wagestream is certainly a part of our strategy towards achieving this.”

This article was developed in collaboration with Wagestream, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.

This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.