Consumer-centric aged service is key to the industry's future

By Sean Rooney*
Tuesday, 28 November, 2017

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Collaboration between stakeholders will help ensure that the results of current independent aged-care industry reviews are ‘fit for purpose’, and meet the needs of consumers, providers and government.

We know too well that we are experiencing significant shifts in demand for age services and the way to meet this demand is through expansion and innovation in Australia’s aged-care industry.

Coinciding with an increase in demand, we are also seeing greater emphasis on consumer-centric aged service delivery models in the context of a dynamic regulatory environment influenced by Australia’s aged-care reforms process.

The consumer interface of our industry includes not only the care recipient and their families, but also their local communities. The political landscape shaping aged-care policy is equally complex and includes local, state and federal governments and departments as well as opposition parties, unions, peak bodies and industry and consumer advocacy groups.

Building confidence and community support for Australia’s age services industry requires ongoing focus and effort. This includes engaging all stakeholders at their respective interest levels. Not only do we need to ensure community support for our day-to-day activities but we need to futureproof these beneficial relationships to ensure our industry can grow and innovate to meet the needs of a rapidly ageing Australia.

The concept of Social Licence to Operate (SLO) has evolved fairly recently from the broader and more established notions of ‘corporate social responsibility’ and ‘social acceptability’. It is based on the idea that businesses and companies need not only regulatory permission but also ‘social permission’ to conduct their operations. SLO does not refer to a formal agreement or document but to the real or current credibility, reliability and public acceptance of an industry.

If our industry does not actively value and manage its SLO, the results can be damaging and far-reaching. A loss of confidence and reputation can result in lost revenues, increased regulatory and compliance requirements, higher financial costs and imposts, increased difficulties in hiring a skilled workforce, costly delays of business operations, downturn in investor and stakeholder confidence, and ultimately the potential prospect of business closures.

In this context it is beholden on all players in the age services industry to ensure we maintain our industry’s social licence to operate.

Enhancing our industry’s profile necessitates that we build and support collaborative relationships with key players. So it is pleasing to note current collaborative activities underway across LASA, Aged and Community Services Australia, the Aged Care Guild and other peak bodies in initiating a range of strategic events aimed at increasing community understanding of, and confidence in, our industry.

To date already LASA, ACSA and the Guild have demonstrated solidarity by publicly reinforcing our industry’s commitment to working collaboratively with consumers and government to ensure a regulatory system that supports continuous improvement and innovation in service delivery. Together, we also pressed key messages to government on the aged-care reform agenda and funding sustainability for industry while emphasising the need for ongoing bipartisan support for aged-care reform.

It is in this collective spirit that we are actively contributing to the current independent reviews examining the aged-care industry to ensure that it is ‘fit for purpose’ in meeting the needs and expectations of consumers, providers and government.

The visibility of our industry working together in the service of older Australians also augurs well for how we respond to the findings and recommendations of the soon-to-be-released Legislated Review of Aged Care Reforms. This review, conducted by Aged Care Sector Committee Chair David Tune, will have potentially far-reaching impacts into key issues in aged care such as access to services, funding, quality and workforce matters.

*Sean Rooney is the national CEO of LASA. He has held several Chief Executive/Senior roles in public, private and not-for-profit sector organisations including the CSIRO, Medicare Local Alliance and in the ACT Government.

Image credit: © Studio

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