Amaroo Village: How background checks improve efficiency and wellbeing in the aged care industry

Taken from the Aboriginal word meaning ‘beautiful resting place’, Amaroo offers more than 350 independent living units, a range of in-home services and two residential care homes across Perth and regional WA. Of course, caring for Australia’s seniors means complying with an array of regulations designed to safeguard their wellbeing. To this end, Amaroo’s HR Coordinator, Shelley Harris, needs to ensure that every potential employee ticks all the right boxes.

Ensuring a caring environment

Amaroo employs around 260 staff and 150 volunteers. “We mainly recruit for carers and hospitality staff who deal with the residents one-on-one every day; then we have nurses, therapists and lifestyle coordinators who run the activities,” explains Harris.

“We’re looking after family members: people’s parents and grandparents, and our ethos is all about giving them the best care we can.

“Aged care isn’t a sexy industry and most jobs aren’t high paying, so you have to really want to do it – we need people who have that level of compassion and respect,” she says.

All centres are subject to strict quality standards and, with increased media coverage concerning any adverse event in aged care, it only takes one bad egg to ruin an operator’s reputation.

Verifying experience

The more staff interact with residents, the greater the potential for risk. It follows then that Amaroo has particularly stringent criteria when it comes to hiring carers.

“We typically have the same carers looking after the same residents – they spend so much time with them they become like their family almost,” says Harris.

“We get hundreds of applications but it’s finding the experience that’s the tricky bit.”

“We make sure candidates have at least a Certificate III in Individual Support, but because there’s a lot of liability involved, we ideally need them to be familiar with all the practical aspects of the job, such as manual handling techniques.”

“Most aged care companies have a ‘no lifting’ policy, which means staff have to use a hoist or other mechanism to help move the resident. To minimise risk of injury to residents and themselves, we have to make sure they’re comfortable with these procedures,” says Harris.

Face-to-face checks

“If all the right signals are on the resume, then the care centre manager will have a chat with them to assess their knowledge of specific areas such as the industry accreditation standards,” says Harris.

Administered by the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency, there are 44 standards covering everything from pain management to privacy.

“There’s a big re-accreditation check every three years and the agency also conducts spot checks, so it’s vital that any new carers know what their responsibilities are,” she explains.

Meeting and speaking with candidates is also an opportunity for Harris and her colleagues to ensure they’re a good cultural fit. “My radar is up permanently, and any hint of disrespectful behaviour is a big no-no for me,” she says.

Using technology to save time and money in aged care recruiting

On top of these screening measures, Harris makes sure that every single job applicant has an up-to-date Police Check. “This is an industry requirement, and we particularly look for any incidences of harm, abuse or theft,” she explains.

Employees need to renew their certificate every three years, which used to be a fairly convoluted process. “Individuals would take their ID to the post office and fill out the forms; we’d reimburse them through payroll and then wait weeks to receive their clearance in the mail – sometimes it took so long, they were unable to work,” says Harris.

Now Amaroo use CVCheck and Harris says it’s far more efficient. “It’s all done in my office: the employee comes in and spends five minutes filling out the form, we pay for it upfront and generally receive the police clearance within an hour or two.”

With the aged care sector set to boom over the next decade, Harris will most likely be screening applications at an ever-increasing rate, so anything that helps reduce the administrative burden is most welcome.

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