The Old and the New

Aged and Community Services Australia

Currently, 13 per cent of Australians are over 65 years of age but by 2050 that number will almost double to 25 per cent. As a comparison, at the turn of the nineteenth century, people aged 65 years and over in Australia represented just four per cent of Australia’s total population. And yet, funding for aged care remains squeezed.

Professor John Kelly assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer of the organisation in April 2012. He has had continuous experience as a Director of not-for-profit, remunerated health and aged care related Boards as well as Government Boards and Statutory Committees, since 1994. He also operates the law program in the Masters of Health Administration at the University of Technology, Sydney, manages a specialist boutique national health and aged care legal and consulting practice, has been a partner in national law firms specialising in the health and aged care sector, was the recipient of the University of Technology, Sydney’s prestigious 2010 Alumni Award for Excellence and in 2009 was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia. In 2010, Professor Kelly held the position of Commonwealth Aged Care Commissioner, appointed by the Federal Government.

John believes there is no use in waiting for the politicians to catch up with the importance of the aged care issue in terms of votes; while people around Australia are aware to an extent of the growing significance of the issues, it has not yet reached the point where a putative government might need to regard it as a major vote winner or loser (and devise policies accordingly). “I believe we have to be more proactive in continuing the debate not only with politicians but with the community as a whole,” he says. “There are many issues that baby-boomers and their parents need to start talking about more openly.”

He is “not quite certain whether the baby boomers are ready to assert their position” at the forthcoming September election. “I think we may have to wait for one more election cycle. By the next federal election every political party will be lining up to have an ageing policy. At this stage I don’t think the discussion is vocal enough for politicians to either hear or listen to the messages.” Governments are storing up trouble for themselves and the taxpayers they serve, John agrees, because of the on-costs of dealing later with the real social troubles such procrastination can bring.

A large proportion of around 1,500 providers that ACSA represents are based in rural and regional Australia. “The notion of communities in that space is extremely important and if you don’t address issues of sustainability and viability [in the aged care sector], it flows right through the whole community in terms of employment, social cohesion and so many other factors.”

ACSA’s member organisations are all in the charitable and not-for-profit space and look after some 90 per cent of all rural and regional services in the aged care sector and 80 per cent of community services. This is where the for-profit private aged care sector cannot operate because the economies of scale are absent – you would not, says John, set up a company to provide aged-care services in Kalgoorlie or Geraldton and expect to turn a profit because it doesn’t make commercial sense. “That’s a fact of life and it is part of our discussion with governments about how members provide part of that community service.”

Not that all ACSA members are small bodies: Blue Care is one (see here) which is state-wide throughout Queensland and has almost 9,000 staff and commensurately large budgets. That the majority of members are faith-based does not worry John; in fact, quite the contrary. It’s a fact of life that people, as they get older, tend to begin to reflect on spirituality which “does draw them closer to mission-based providers, many of whom have a religious base,” he explains.

Care for the disabled features in the activities of many ACSA members and the organisation is relatively pleased with the acceptance of the NDIS which it sees as a step forward. The bottom line, says John, is that the maturity of a community as a whole – in this case Australia – can be measured by “how we look after those people in our community who are disadvantaged. We are very supportive of the reforms in terms of how we look after those with disabilities.”

ACSA’s current advocacy and lobbying priorities are not new but they are focussed. First is provider viability (how to put forward to government policies that will enable providers of services to be sustainable) and the second category is workforce (how to advise government on how to ensure a flow of available staff in the sector). In addition, the organisation is examining market trends – the market is driven by ration supply where government controls the number of places available in residential and community care, restricting competition, choice and access.

John points out that there are astonishing complexities in this sector that face anyone needing to make a choice or decision – faced with a barrage of regulations and issues at precisely a time (perhaps when having to arrange care for a dear relative) when simplicity is overwhelmingly necessary. ACSA aims to drive down the complexity. These are simple issues with complex parameters, says John, and he believes ACSA is working hard on behalf of its members in addressing them and getting them higher up the agenda in Canberra.

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October 20, 2018, 11:51 AM AEDT

Chance of Rain
Today 10/20 90%
Chance of Rain
Mostly cloudy. Periods of light rain this morning. High 16C. SSW winds at 5 to 10 km/h, increasing to 15 to 30 km/h. Chance of rain 70%.


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