How becoming an independent support worker could reduce stress by offering greater freedom and flexibility

Senior woman is enjoying a catch up with her daughter. They are sitting in the kitchen drinking cups of tea.

A recent study has found that the psychological demands of some health care professions are greater than others, with aged care and disability support workers facing tougher conditions than their counterparts in nursing and medicine. As the NDIS and our ageing population place even greater demands on the workforce, can the answer be found in the flexibility and control offered by independent work?

If you’ve worked in aged care and disability support, it’s likely that you’ve encountered one or more of the work stressors commonly associated with the industry. It can be incredibly rewarding but also demanding, with many workers employed in the profession feeling overworked and underpaid. This stress is compounded with the lack of control many support workers feel and the high levels of job insecurity as the industry undergoes rapid change.

While these stressors are also associated with other healthcare professions, the recent study from University of Melbourne found their impact to be greater amongst aged care and disability support workers. More alarmingly, these workers were also at a greater risk of declining mental health.

What are the facts?

  • From 2006-2016, census data revealed that the aged care and disability workforce increased by 34%.
  • The workforce is largely comprised of female workers, with five times more women employed in the sector than men.
  • Amongst care and support workers, 9% reported 3 or more potential work stressors, compared to 5.2% of the general healthcare workforce.
  • Data from the Household and Labour Dynamics In Australia Survey found that these stressors created a drop of over 4 points on the ‘Mental Health Inventory’ – a drop associated with indications of anxiety and depression.

What’s causing the greater levels of stress for care and support workers?

The NDIS and consumer directed aged care are creating greater flexibility for consumers to control what support they access, when they access it, and who provides it. But this flexibility is placing pressure on providers to meet the vastly differing demands of their clients.

Already, 26% of care and support workers are employed in casual work, as compared to 11.5% of healthcare workers in general. And this percentage is increasing every year. Associate professor Allison Milner, lead author of the study, suggests that this concern over continuity of work is a significant stressor for frontline workers.

“One of the many good things about the NDIS is that it will give people with disabilities more choice and control over their lives, but in doing that we need to be careful that this flexibility doesn’t have unintended and negative effects on the workforce around people with disabilities.”

Will an independent care and support workforce lessen the burden?

Mable is an online platform that allows independent aged care and disability support workers to offer their services directly to clients. As the industry struggles to meet growing consumer demand, it’s a solution that’s providing existing workers with an alternative way to offer their services. It’s also enticing new people to the profession.

Workers can set their own rates, choose who they want to work with, when they work and what services they provide. It provides flexibility and control to a workforce that’s long felt disempowered.

Find support work that works for you.

Independent workers on Mable include experienced care and support workers, allied health workers and nurses. It also includes those new to the profession who are interested in providing social and domestic support.  But it’s not only people who are looking for a complete career move. With a growing casualised workforce, experienced care and support workers are signing up to Mable to work around their current shifts and supplement their existing income.

Flexibility is just one of the benefits that independent work provides. With Mable, clients and workers choose each other. Often, this decision is based not only on the skills and experience that a client is looking for, but also on whether the two people will get along. It’s a way to continuity of care through successful, long-lasting support relationships – something clients and workers alike are crying out for.

Ready to find out who’s looking for support in your local community? Sign up as an independent support worker today.