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Sector organisations hit by funding challenge


Arts Health Institute, which inspired aged care to adopt arts therapy, announces closure while MOD.A, the home modifications peak body, loses CEO, paid staff and office.

The sudden closure of the Arts Health Institute, which aimed to integrate arts into health and aged care, was “a big shock and leaves a hole,” says an aged care provider that was a longtime user of its programs.

The future of AHI’s therapeutic arts programs is currently unknown. The organisation’s website has since been taken down.

AHI issued a statement on Friday 24 November announcing “as of today the company has ceased operations” due to funding pressures and increased competition.

“Like many social enterprise organisations and not-for-profits, particularly smaller ones like ours, we have faced ongoing funding challenges.

“Coupled with this, larger organisations – while also developing and delivering their own worthy programs and research – have become competitors in an increasingly challenging funding environment,” AHI said in the statement.

Maggie Haertsch

The not-for-profit institute was founded by Dr Maggie Haertsch and John-Paul Bell in 2011 following the success of the SMILE study, which found humour therapy led to reduced agitation and increased happiness among residents.

AHI went on to provide education and therapy programs to the aged care sector, including Play Up, which was used in the SMILE study, multi-generational choir Sing Out Loud, which paired residents with local primary school children, and more recently the US-developed Music and Memory, a personalised music program for people with dementia.

Australian Ageing Agenda understands efforts were being made to secure the future of AHI’s programs.

Former AHI chief executive officer Dr Haertsch told AAA this week that she could not make any comment at this time about the AHI.

The Whiddon Group, which participated in the SMILE study, used AHI programs in all of its facilities, said Karn Nelson, executive general manager strategic policy and research.

Karn Nelson

“We were using their services right up until the end. It was a big shock to us and leaves a hole, I must say,” Ms Nelson told AAA yesterday.

Whiddon had “a very close relationship with AHI,” was a keen supporter of its programs, and offered its Glenfield facility for AHI to use for training AHI’s artistic therapists, she said.

“It was pretty sudden; there was no warning,” said Ms Nelson, who found out about the closure through the emailed statement.

While Whiddon runs many of its own initiatives, there is a place for other programs, local artists, and third-party suppliers like AHI that can provide a quality program, Ms Nelson said.

“Because it is great to have new energy coming in, especially on a weekly basis, both for the staff and residents. There is definitely a place for that.”

She said the organisation is getting feedback from different facilities about what to do next.

“We are going to continue looking for and working with local artists, and maybe we will take it at much more of a local level,” Ms Nelson said.  

“Of course, we won’t have the same expertise around humour therapy.”

MOD.A loses paid staff, office

Elsewhere, Home Modifications Australia (MOD.A), the national peak body for home modifications providers, has closed its office and its CEO Michael Bleasdale and business development manager Ray Dooley finished up on 29 September. However, the peak says it will continue trading while seeking ways to secure its future.

Mr Bleasdale is among three new directors recruited to the board, which now comprises nine people representing home modification experts and providers across Australia’s six states.

“We no longer have paid staff or an office and responsibility for a number of the activities that we were undertaking through that office are now being taken on by individual board directors,” Mr Bleasdale told AAA yesterday.

He said when Home and Community Care (HACC) was under state administration, the peak was funded “quite significantly” by the NSW Ageing, Disability and Home Care Department.

However, Mr Bleasdale said the peak was “fairly strongly snubbed” for new or other funding after the transition to the Commonwealth system because it was not a pre-existing HACC sector development funded peak.

He said the board had agreed on the activities it would pursue for the year and that a new business plan was being developed.

At the same time, MOD.A would continue to investigate alternative funding streams, and look at the operating models of its counterparts in other countries including Canada and the UK, Mr Bleasdale said.

“We have some funds retained and we continue to seek more funding from partners and any other opportunities.”

Mr Bleasdale estimated the organisation had enough funds to operate throughout 2018.

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One Response to Sector organisations hit by funding challenge

  1. Shalla Thomas January 24, 2018 at 2:53 pm #

    As a Home Modification provider, it was disappointing to lose excellent workers and the work being done at a National level, having supported NSW services for many years in many ways, therefore creating a quality product statewide and significant support to new workers in the industry. It is a shame the Commonwealth is unable to see the significance of peak organisations and the work they do to support the industry, educate consumers and participants and interested stakeholders.

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