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Single voice a misguided ideal



Above:  HammondCare CEO, Dr Stephen Judd

By Keryn Curtis

The CEO of the large not for profit health and aged care provider, HammondCare, Dr Stephen Judd, has added his voice to the defense of Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) as the “premier voice for not-for-profit and faith-based providers of aged care and disability services”, following the announcement last Thursday of a new peak industry association for aged care, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA).

Dr Judd said that the move by Aged Care Queensland (ACQ) and Aged and Community Care Victoria (ACCV) to break away from ACSA and form a new combined for-profit and not-for-profit aged care association with Aged Care Association Australia, would not diminish ACSA’s role at a state and federal level.

He said he was confident ACSA would maintain its focus on the vital issues of aged care and disability reform as well the imminent changes in the charity and not-for profit sector without the risk of dilution of the message.

“The reasons for maintaining a separate not-for-profit peak body are unchanged,” said Dr Judd. 

“While we share many things in common with ‘for-profit’ providers, charities and other not-for-profit providers are driven by purpose, not profit.  Their motivation is entirely different – or should be – from the for profit providers.”

Dr Judd said that the mergers of for-profit and not-for-profit providers into a single body in Queensland and Victoria had seen many specific messages and issues of relevance to NFPs drowned out and subsumed within the agreed messages of the whole group.

“The conversation tends to end up being around the things you have in common – the Government representation and funding issues etc – and not around the things that are different.

“The distinctiveness of the church, community and charitable service providers in the aged care space needs to be highlighted and properly articulated, not subsumed by the issues that concern the sector as a whole.” 

Dr Judd emphasised critical timing issues around the establishment of the Australian Charity and Not for Profit Commission as central to his support for an independent not-for-profit peak association.

“The National Aged Care Alliance is already there to provide a forum for providers, unions and others to present a united approach to government regarding aged care reform.  

“But in the coming year, there will also be significant change and reform for the charitable and not-for-profit sector – a new Australian Charity and Not for Profit Commission, a new statutory definition of charity and new legislation dealing with tax concessions for the charity and not-for-profit sector.

“To be a not for profit provider in aged care and not to see the tsunami of change around charities and not to acknowledge how important that is to us, is crazy.  Even if I did think it was, in some form, a good idea, this is absolutely not the right time – not when the government is looking at the statutory definition of a charity.  To be saying, we’re all exactly the same…  You’d have to have rocks in your head,” he said.

Dr Judd was also critical of arguments in favour of a ‘single voice’ for all providers of services for older Australians.

“A ‘single voice’ is not an ideal that we should automatically or slavishly aspire to. And ‘unity’ is not preferable to maintaining honestly held but differing beliefs.  Part of the colour of a vibrant policy and practice is to have a range of voices and opinion.  

“Those who advocate a ‘single voice’ invariably think that the single voice should be theirs.  It’s a furphy.  We should aspire to coherence and dynamic debate and we should not have a ‘single voice’ when there are legitimate differences.

“Not only will that never happen but, moreover, it is undesirable. While a ‘single voice’ might be what you get in North Korea, what you want in a dynamic policy and practice environment is clear and coherent communication,” Dr Judd said.

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0 Responses to Single voice a misguided ideal

  1. David Fenwick April 4, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    Well presented and sound viewpoint. At what cost do we seek unity?
    Too much time and energy was expended attempting to restructuring ACSA when clearly we should have been focussed on the main game. Aged care reform to achieve a sustainable industry into the future has been the overlooked priority

  2. Dr Ralph Hampson April 9, 2012 at 11:06 pm #

    Thanks Stephen for your insights – so sad this split is happening at a time when there needs to be pressure on the government to bring about reform – if government can use the split to delay action on aged care reform, and it is fiscally helpful to them, they will!!!

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