Paul Sadler starts today as interim CEO of Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), replacing Pat Sparrow who led the not-for-profit peak body for the last five years during a period of tumultuous change, including a Royal Commission.
Inside Ageing was able to grab some time with Paul to hear his views on the future of the sector and some of what he’ll be focussing on first.
Inside Ageing (IA): Congratulations on being appointed CEO of ACSA. You’re coming into the role at a critical time with the aged care industry going through significant reform following the government’s response to the Aged Care and Quality Royal Commission.
With this reform and headwinds currently being experienced by the sector, what do you see as the most important areas you’ll focus on first?
Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the stellar contribution of my predecessor, Pat Sparrow. She did a phenomenal job leading ACSA and the whole aged care sector through a traumatic period with a Royal Commission and global pandemic.
I believe the sector needs to engage with all of the Government’s Five Pillars of Aged Care Reform. The reform agenda is multi-faceted and comprehensive and as such, requires ACSA and other stakeholders to react as broadly as possible. Home care reform, sustainability and affordability, and workforce are all immediate challenges.
But the Government’s Response is not perfect. For example, I firmly believe there should be an industry plan developed and implemented. There is significant industry consolidation occurring and we have to make sure older people, workers and local communities are not casualties of unplanned change.
IA: Workforce continues to be an issue for the sector in just about every way. The sector is struggling to retain existing staff let alone increase levels for anticipated future demand.
What suggestions do you have to help with this? Improved pay and conditions weren’t covered in the Govt’s response to the Royal Commission. What’s your view on this?
There is immense pressure on management and frontline staff resulting from years of underfunding combined with seemingly never-ending reforms. Workforce shortages are at critical levels in many places, accentuated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is no one fix here. We need to follow a comprehensive workforce strategy. The recent CEDA Duty of Care: Meeting the Aged Care Workforce Challenge Report showed how important migration is to the capacity to meet the growing demand for aged care workers.
However, it is clear that better pay is critical. We cannot continue to have pay rates well below health or disability sectors, let alone other sectors of the economy. As the Royal Commission found, this must be funded by Government.
IA: I suppose the challenge the sector faces and with your role as well, is just not dealing with the operational issues of every day but also building trust and positive sentiment with a community that can be sceptical. How does the sector begin to do this?
Trust must be built at all levels: at the local service level through consumer engagement; at the sector level through greater transparency; at the government level through proper consultation mechanisms and effective performance measures.
IA: There is a lot of talk about the Future of Aged Care and what this will look like post-reform. What do you see as the future of the sector and what type of industry would you like to see in around 5 years’ time, which is about the same time your predecessor was in the top job?
I envisage a number of key elements should be in place in 5 years:
- A system based on the human rights of older people without artificial constraints on availability of care and accommodation.
- A firm financial basis including a revised user pays system that is affordable and sustainable.
- Key elements of the workforce strategy embedded into the system with fair pay and proper workforce planning in place.
- A single aged care program operational with funding that involves a mix of fixed and variable components.
- Best practice assessment and care planning tools embedded into service delivery improving quality of care.
- Lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic learnt, with resilience measures built into quality, funding and workforce systems.
IA: Both LASA and ACSA seemed to have worked closely in helping secure the record increase in funding as part of this year’s budget. Do you see this cooperation continuing and potentially expanding into other areas?
Cooperation will be essential and we will always work with LASA and others to promote the interests of older people and the aged care sector. ACSA is at the forefront of working cooperatively across the sector. For example, ACSA is a sponsor of the National Aged Care Alliance and currently provides administrative support for NACA’s operations. ACSA is also an active participant in the Australian Aged Care Collaboration seeking aged care reform on a national level.
IA: Technology is being heralded as a key driver for how the sector reforms, including the delivery of services in-home, tools to help staff and business function. How much of a focus is it for you to help communicate to your members some of the technology and innovation that is available to them?
Technology advances are critical to the future of aged care delivery. ACSA will continue its active support of the adoption of new technology, including via the Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council.
We will also be pushing Government to expand substantially business to government information exchange as part of an Aged Care Industry Technology Plan as promised in the Government’s Response to the Aged Care Royal Commission.
IA: Thank you.