Volunteers in aged care are highly valued

A younger woman, an older woman and a younger man all looking at the camera and smiling

The Volunteers in Aged Care survey was open from April to May 2023 and had 1597 anonymous responses.

We heard from:

  • 1003 volunteers
  • 339 volunteer managers or coordinators
  • 225 aged care providers who engaged volunteers.

The findings suggest there are opportunities to better meet the needs of the aged care volunteering eco-system.

Top 10 findings

  1. Volunteers are essential to aged care and delivery of person centred and quality care.
  2. There is an ongoing need to distinguish between the role of paid staff and volunteers.
  3. Volunteers and volunteer managers see their work as impactful and meaningful, but believe this perspective is not always shared by the organisation and leadership.
  4. Volunteers undertake many roles in aged care and other sectors.
  5. Key barriers to volunteering include:
    • time commitment
    • COVID-19 procedures and health reasons
    • family commitments
    • lack of flexibility
    • lack of support from paid staff
    • travel considerations.
  6. There is a need for suitable recruitment, recognition and support mechanisms for volunteers from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and life experiences.
  7. The cost of volunteering, including training fees and volunteer out of pocket expenses such as travel were identified as an issue.
  8. Many volunteers and volunteer managers noted the need for accessible and appropriate training to effectively carry out their roles.
  9. Many aged care volunteers, managers and providers requested more support (e.g. fact sheets, short online training, handbooks). Volunteers also wanted regular feedback and direction, as well as more respect from paid staff.
  10. Managers and providers are experiencing significant difficulty in recruitment and retention of volunteers.

What we’re doing

The results of this survey will help us design strategies to better support, recruit and train aged care volunteers and volunteer managers, who are an integral part of the sector.

What we heard – feedback from individual respondent groups

From volunteers in aged care:

Many volunteers told us they were recruited through word of mouth, personal approaches or self-referrals. There were also many volunteers who already knew someone in the aged care system (e.g. a family member or friend receiving care) and who came from a professional aged care background.

While volunteers are altruistically motivated, many do not feel supported, valued or recognised for their volunteering work.

Infographic showing the volunteers in aged care results of the Volunteers in Aged Care Survey, April-May 2023

From volunteer managers in aged care:

Many volunteer managers work across multiple facilities (and sectors), with their work involving recruitment, onboarding, training, matching and the ongoing support of volunteers.

They are being negatively affected by time pressures and conflicting commitments, with many of them not undergoing volunteer management specific training.

The survey results indicate that the onboarding process is the greatest barrier to volunteer recruitment and retention for managers.

Infographic showing the volunteer managers in aged care results of the Volunteers in Aged Care Survey, April-May 2023

From aged care providers:

Providers say that volunteers are essential to the delivery of aged care services. They are experiencing significant difficulty keeping existing volunteers and recruiting new ones, with help desperately needed to address the decline in volunteering numbers.

Infographic showing the aged care provider results of the Volunteers in Aged Care Survey, April-May 2023

What’s Next

We thank everyone who participated in the survey which will inform the ongoing development and improvement of aged care volunteering policy, practices and procedures.

We are interested in further understanding the needs of and barriers faced by specific groups including diversity groups and people living in rural and remote locations. We welcome feedback on this and any other aspect of aged care volunteering to agedcarevolunteer@health.gov.au.

Let's change aged care, together

Every Australian should feel confident about accessing high quality and safe aged care, when and where they need it.

The changes mean older Australians will have greater choice and control, services that respect and meet their needs, and support to stay independent as they age.

To find out more and help design the changes, visit the Get Involved page or call 1800 318 209.

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The Department of Health and Aged Care acknowledges the traditional owners of country throughout Australia, and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures, and to elders both past and present.