The Aged and Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA) annual NSW/ACT conference took place from 29–31 May – here’s what we learned.
A focus on consumer-centred care
The theme of this year’s conferences was ‘Driving Quality Care’, and the first day of the event featured a session titled ‘What Does Excellent Care Look Like & What Do We Need to Deliver It?’.
‘What would excellent care look like if we had all the resources we needed and every opportunity to deliver care through innovative & imaginative concepts?’, asked moderator Tom Symondson, CEO of ACCPA.
Taking part in the panel were:
- Lee Carissa, CEO, Cranbrook Care
- Robert Orie, CEO, Montefiore
- Angela Robinson, National Advisor Community Care, Calvary
- Helen Miller, General Manager In Home Support Services, LiveBetter
- Samantha Edmonds, Manager, Policy and Systemic Advocacy at Older Persons Advocacy Network
The panel discussed various aspects of consumer-directed and person-centred care.
As Robert Orie said, the measure of excellent care is different for everyone. “You need to know what their definition of quality is,” he said. What one customer deems important may not be a priority for another.
“It may be taking part in meaningful activities, or maintaining personal, romantic and family relationships,” he continued.
The importance of workforce
Helen Miller pointed out the importance of having the right staff in place to facilitate that kind of understanding. Not only that, but staffing with the right skills and in the right place. She also emphasised that we should consider the wellbeing of care providers – care needs to be a positive experience for them, too.
Maintaining a sustainable workforce was a continuing theme throughout the conversation – the link between employee/carer experience and customer experience was highlighted.
A shifting care landscape
Of course, we are moving through times of reform.
Angela Robertson said that care providers have an opportunity to learn from other industries. “We have to look outside of the industry on how to change,” she said, “otherwise it will be the same old ideas.”
She also encouraged providers to look at their options, “but hold them lightly – think outside of what you know. Use these times of reform to embrace change.”
Home Care Consumer Survey
On the second day, Troy Speirs, Senior Policy Advisor at ACCPA, gave an update on the results from the Home Care Consumer Survey.
The survey collects the opinions of around 1,300 respondents, many of whom were prospective care recipients or informal carers. Around a quarter of the respondents are current care recipients.
Connecting with informal caregivers
The emphasis was again on person-centred care, and encouraged providers to consider the needs of informal carers when thinking about their services.
With workforce challenges likely to increase in the future, informal carers will provide the bulk of the care that many people receive. Maintaining relationships with those informal carers, and even providing respite care for them, will be important for the industry going forward.
Troy highlighted the importance of supporting informal caregivers by pointing out that if they are not supported, and they are not given respite, they may suffer burnout, and the care recipient who had previously been supported to live at home may have to transition to residential care.
The need for flexibility
Troy also shared results that point to the levels of flexibility that care recipients and informal caregivers expect when it comes to their support plan. Nearly a quarter of care recipients and around a third of caregivers expected to change the amount of care they receive at least monthly. When it came to the type of care, that proportion grew – more than 35% of care recipients and almost 40% of carers said they expected to change the type of care they received.
This would obviously bring with it a higher administration and care management cost, and therefore the cost of care to the recipient. Organisations may want to target administrative efficiencies that could mitigate some of that increased cost.
Troy also pointed out that many care recipients will want to track unit level use. This will be particularly important, he said, when several providers are accessing the same budget. “We need to have a very agile indication of what’s currently available in the budget before purchase decisions can be made,” he said. “That’s going to require agile data management across providers.”
Finally, Troy spoke about customer choice. Many care recipients, he said, may start off on the cheapest care option, but are highly motivated to switch care management providers based on care quality. Many customers take time to understand the system – “where they start is not where they end,” said Troy. “Focus on quality – that’s where you’re going to build volume.”
Government Reform update
Eliza Strapp, First Assistant Secretary, Market and Workforce Division at the Department of Health and Aged Care, presented the latest from the government.
She started by acknowledging that the industry has been through some tough times, sharing data that showed 66% of residential care providers are operating at a loss. Home care providers fared a little better, reporting a net profit of just under $100 million for the quarter July–September 2022.
These tough times, she said, will be countered by a positive shift driven by a change to the AN-ACC funding model, which will provide subsidies to approved residential aged care providers. A more equitable pricing model and more attractive wages will also help grow the workforce, she added.
Higher-than-expected Inflation and a lack of confidence following both COVID-19 and the Royal Commission have contributed to disrupted revenues, she argued.
Reform has, however, been gradually releasing more funding into the system. “More funding has been announced to support aged care providers to improve capability and better manage financial risk,” she said.
The changes to AN-ACC funding are a direct result of the advice given by ACCPA, and are now directly informed by the cost of delivering care.
How the government is tackling workforce challenges
“Without workers, the discussions of care minutes, improved systems, or returning security and dignity to aged care mean little,” Eliza said.
One of the steps that the government is taking to help tackle workforce challenges is the 15% interim increase in award rate granted by the Fair Work Commission – the largest ever wage increase for the Australian aged care workforce. However, the government expects the full increase to be passed on to the workforce, and the government has promised to provide guidance on how that can be achieved.
Beyond that, the presentation highlighted the government’s efforts to improve career progression through mentoring programs, placements, scholarships and online training, plus changes to labour agreements and visa regulations that will encourage qualified care workers from overseas to choose to come to Australia.
Response to the Royal Commission
Eliza also listed the fundamental reforms that the government is working on in response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission.
Of particular note was the recognition that the government has imposed a number of reporting requirements on care providers. “We recognise that this does come at a cost,” Eliza said, “but measuring quality is how we improve it, and how we rebuild public confidence in the care system.”
Also discussed was the National Aged Care Mandatory Quality Indicator Program, which asks residential care providers to measure and report on six new metrics. This program will soon be rolled out to cover home care.
The new Age Care Act
Eliza finished by describing the new Aged Care Act, planned to commence in July 2024.
“The new Act will bring into effect a new regulatory framework which sets out to improve the way that care is delivered, detect and address harm, and to lift the standard of care,” she said.
“It’s complicated, and we’re all facing that complexity. But we really do appreciate your engagement as we work through this process.”
“It’s a big opportunity for us to journey toward a world-leading aged care system.”
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