As part of our end-of-year reporting, Inside Ageing is currently asking CEOs and leaders from across the aged care and retirement living space for their views on the year that just was and expectations for 2024. If you would like to share your views email our news desk: firstname.lastname@example.org
Q1. What was your highlight/s for 2023?
With Respect we’re always on an exciting ride. Last year we grew again by 25% and developed a lot internally to be able to handle a lot more growth which is really exciting for the future.
The highlight for me was the 15% pay increase for care workers. I always tell our care workers that they are the most important stakeholders in our mission to care for older people.
It doesn’t matter what restaurant you went to, what they offered, or how flash it was; if the staff are poor quality, disengaged, or don’t want to be there then the experience will be terrible.
I think sometimes we forget that, and the Government think they are going to make the care better, or providers and leaders in the industry think they are going to make the care better – but they are not. They cannot because they have no direct interaction with the recipients of care.
The care workers are there every day giving direct care, and without investment in care workers, we will never create better care no matter many how many laws, rules, programs, buildings, bodies, audits, penalties, or initiatives we create.
Our care workers are the number one stakeholder in making care better for our older Australians, and we can’t expect to attract more quality care workers or satisfy our existing care workers by rewarding them poorly.
Q2. What are you most looking forward to in 2024?
I think the involvement of IHACPA in the aged care sector is the best thing to happen for older people since I started in the industry nearly 20 years ago in my 20s.
As long as I can remember there’s been a fight between the sector and the Government about adequate levels of funding for the value we want to deliver to older people. Understandably at times, there’s been disappointment from the Government when providers have taken advantage of mechanisms, but just as rightly, providers have been disappointed with the Government’s approach to funding and the relentless expectation to become more efficient than is actually possible if they are also expecting value to the consumer.
That efficiency in aged care has been driven by the COPO/COPE (Commonwealth Own Purpose Expenditure/Outlays) efficiency dividend, but there is really poor evidence that efficiency dividends work, and I think we can say it was a massive failure in aged care considering we ended up with a Royal Commission and chronic funding problems. You can’t be cheap and get quality at the same time. You don’t want to pay for waste, but you can’t expect to pay peanuts and get something good either.
All the efficiency dividend did was reward providers for poor quality and unethical practices through lower staffing levels and higher ACFI. My concern is that I don’t think the Government are past their attachment to the efficiency dividend.
I think they believe if we set higher standards and mandatory staffing, audit harder, increase transparency, and then squeeze funding then an efficiency dividend approach will work. But that won’t work because there are just too many ways to leverage profit and loss that are counter to consumer value but are still compliant and profitable. Whilst efficiency dividends appear logical, they only end up reducing value.
To that end, the answer isn’t to make more rules around a broken way of thinking, the answer is to throw out the broken way of thinking and create a better one, which is the role IHACPA plays.
Not only will that provide certainty for organisations to be able to innovate for consumer value, but it will create a better relationship between providers and the Government, and I think that is critical if we want to provide the best care for older Australians. You can’t have the policymakers and the implementers of that policy in a war and expect good outcomes for our older people.
Q3. What books will you be reading over the summer holiday break?
I’m a consumer of two main things; eastern philosophy and business.
Eastern philosophy suits the aged care sector because there aren’t many sectors that test your peace more than this one! I’m reading a book called “I Am That” at the moment which is a translated dialogue between an enlightened person and the people that used to come from all around the world to ask him questions. It’s a bit mind-bending but good if you have a good level of understanding of those kinds of concepts.
With business, I’m reading Alex Hormozi’s book “$100m Offers”. He has super interesting business concepts from the very front of the customer journey and makes you question what value your offer is providing. In aged care I think it’s really important to understand value because it’s traditionally been nurse-driven, not customer-driven.