Home' Community Care Review : CCR MAY 2016 Contents difficulties working in
an industry constructed
around, and dominated by
King says men could
often be made to feel
like they had to prove
themselves, faced issues
such as a lack of suitable
uniforms in men's
sizes, and sometimes
experienced overt gender discrimination by
clients, co-workers and employers.
"Some men had been to an [job]
interview and told by employers that they're
going to be watched carefully because
there are doubts men can do the work, or
co-workers put them down because they do
things differently," says King.
Another issue is what King calls the
"sexualisation of care", in that some women
could feel uncomfortable with aspects
of personal care such as toileting and
showering being conducted by a man.
However, King says men who enter the
sector are able to create opportunities for
themselves, often by carving out a niche.
This includes the care of older men, clients
with difficult behaviour or substance
abuse, or taking on tasks that required
In terms of growing the community aged
care workforce, King says that employing
more men is a strategy that has been
underutilised. There is scope for doubling,
if not tripling the number of men in the
sector, she says. However, this will take
reflection of how to construct workplaces
that are welcoming and supportive of men.
A VIRTUOUS CYCLE
In 2009, Anthony Brown, Adjunct Fellow
at the Men's Health Information and
Resource Centre at Western Sydney
University, co-authored a report into the
use of home and community services
by older men that found they faced
barriers engaging with services. Among
its recommendations were to target male
workers and volunteers for recruitment.
Brown tells CCR that when men worked
for a service, male clients -- who make up
around 30 per cent of total community care
recipients -- were better able to recognise
themselves in that service or see it as being
relevant to them.
Older male clients in Brown's research
commonly perceived community services
as feminised, including activities, décor
and furnishings. More male staff could
potentially mean the needs and wants of
men are better recognised, he says.
"By having more men involved in staff...
it's a subtle way to have more men involved
in the planning of services and what they
could look like," says Brown.
Similarly, Brown says they found that
attracting male workers often went hand-in-
hand with attracting male clients.
"It is a bit chicken and egg... If a
service has an understanding of what's of
interest to men and how to get more men
as clients, then what that also means is
that they're running activities and they
have volunteer opportunities that men
are probably more interested in getting
involved in," says Brown. "It's a virtuous
cycle, rather than a vicious cycle"
Brown says this pattern is typical of
when services try to make their services
more inclusive of any population group
-- policies and programs that reflect and
value the diversity of a group attract both
potential clients and employees from
To increase proportions of both male
staff and clients, Brown says services
should begin with strategies around
inclusive and respectful language,
acknowledge cultural issues facing men and
make sure men are included in advertising
and promotional materials.
Michael Fine, Adjunct Professor at
Macquarie University's Department of
Sociology, says while there is no single
answer to potential workforce challenges
in the future, aged care would do well to
look at how it engages men, particularly
as traditional jobs for men in manual
"There's not only scope, but there's a
real case to be made for increasing the
proportion of men providing care in every
field," Fine tells CCR.
While men make up a significant
proportion of unpaid primary carers -- around
30 per cent -- Fine argues the way aged care
is conceptualised as a woman's job and a
form of nursing has acted as a barrier to men
looking towards caring
However, with the
move to wellness
how community care
is thought about and
delivered, Fine says
there is the opportunity
to attract men to the
sector who may have transferrable skills in
backgrounds such as fitness.
To allow this, there would need to be
some adjustments to how qualifications are
recognised, says Fine.
For example, those who have studied
in areas such as fitness, human movement
or physical education have usually studied
physiology, biology and exercise -- all
relevant to a wellness model.
However, Fine argues that if someone
wants to enter the sector with such a
qualification at present, they would usually
be required to do a certificate III or IV
without recognition of their prior learning.
Anscombe says part of what has allowed
Community Care Options to increase its
male staff is that they now recruit direct
care staff on the basis of values rather than
Relaxing this requirement has seen a
number of older men enter their workforce,
particularly those who have come from a
trade or construction background and were
looking for a change, she says.
"We're seeing men come to us with
a skill base that they can share with our
clients," says Anscombe.
"Our clients are saying 'I'm using my
day program funding to work on engines
or volunteer at the men's shed -- I need
someone with me who is skilled in those
areas', and we have men who are coming
from those areas looking to give back."
Fine says that a lot of what has
traditionally been seen as 'men's work'
is somewhat impersonal, and this is
increasing with the use of technology. Aged
care on the other hand, offers a job that is
engaging and interactive.
"It really offers something which a
lot of modern work doesn't," he says.
"Responsibility for the wellbeing of
others is a human task, it's something
we're all challenged with and all need to
"We should be thinking about this as a
job for men as well as for women. We don't
work on that cultural change, and I think we
should be." n
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