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Boards advised to know their roles to meet new standards


Many aged care board directors have limited understanding about their actual key roles and responsibilities, a governance masterclass has heard.

Around 30 board members, directors and chief executives and Australian Ageing Agenda attended Australian Strategic Services’ masterclass in Sydney last Thursday on Standard 8, Organisational Governance, one of the 8 Aged Care Quality Standards.

The national series of masterclasses focuses on bringing directors, chief executives and executives up to speed on organisational governance, its relationship to corporate governance along with their accountabilities and responsibilities.

Organisational governance is an enabler and supporter of corporate governance, said Michael Goldsworthy, principal consultant at Australian Strategic Services.

MIchael Goldsworthy

“This is a significant shift and lift in leader’s ultimate responsibility and accountability for the quality and safety of care and services for people who are ageing, whether they are in the home or in residential care,” Mr Goldsworthy told AAA.

The board has two key governance roles

Mr Goldsworthy said the board’s two key governance roles are to firstly act in the best interests of the organisation and secondly act in the best interests of relevant stakeholders.

He said the board’s four key responsibilities are:

  • strategic leadership
  • policy-based decisions
  • monitoring and reviewing
  • compliance and coverage.

“There is still fundamentally not a deep understanding of those two key roles and four key responsibilities and their practical application to the board and to the organisation,” Mr Goldsworthy said.

“There has been significant improvement in recent years in the understanding of governance principals and practices, but we’ve increasingly got to turn governance theory into practice,” he said.

Mr Goldsworthy used a sailing analogy to demonstrate the importance of acting in the best interest of an organisation.

“When a board is acting in the best interest of the organisation, they’re mindful that the organisation is essentially a boat. And they, the directors on the boat, need to keep it out of stormy weather, off the rocks and in safe waters because ultimately, they are the custodians or stewards of that organisation,” Mr Goldsworthy said.

Participants share their governance concerns

A treasurer of a not-for profit residential aged care provider in Sydney said he was concerned about adequate understanding among the 11 board members at their organisation.

“I would say four maybe five understand 70 per cent of their responsibilities, two or three understand 100 per cent of their responsibilities and the rest don’t understand any,” the treasurer told AAA. 

“We have a board that has a mixture of old and new, qualified and not qualified and they are finding difficultly moving on and improving activities because the old members are saying ‘I’ve done it for 40 years and look where we are, and therefore there is no need to change,’” the treasurer said.

In order to meet the requirements of Standard 8, the treasurer said their organisation would need to reassess its board members.

“The first thing we have to do, to have some positive forward movement is to change the constitution of our association.

“With this set up in the 1970s and 1980s, certain restrictions in that will not allow us to remunerate people who are worthy of being brought on the board,” the treasurer said.

Boards warned against recruiting relatives

Another participant told the masterclass that board members in their organisation were generally appointed through families and friends.

“We are trying to get out of this habit [because] 60 per cent don’t understand any of the governance and are not interested,” the participant said.

Mr Goldsworthy warned providers about adopting such an approach.

“If family members have appropriate experience, skills and knowledge and can add value to the board, then yes, but if they don’t, what’s the point of having them on the board?” Mr Goldsworthy said.

The Standard 8 Organisational Governance masterclass took place at Twin Creeks Golf and Country Club at Luddenham in New South Wales on 19 September.

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5 Responses to Boards advised to know their roles to meet new standards

  1. Anonymous September 25, 2019 at 1:10 pm #

    Most Board members are volunteers. How Government can expect volunteers to be responsible and accountable for taxpayers money and for the quality of support to the most vulnerable clients.

  2. Michael Goldsworthy September 25, 2019 at 5:49 pm #

    Hello Anonymous and the many other board and committee members who regard themselves as volunteers. Thank you for putting forward this statement and raising this vital question.

    As you may be aware Standard 8, Organisational Governance, is enacted by the Aged Care Act 1997, which now makes “individuals or groups of people of governing bodies fully accountable and ultimately responsible for the safety and quality of care and services”. This approach is just one of many reforms and policies that underpin resident/client choice and control.

    Whilst many aged care leaders and stakeholders believe the Aged Care Royal Commission is rightly exposing an aged care crisis, in reality it is time we all faced up to the fact that this crisis is a result of a catastrophic failure of governance…be it at board, leadership or management levels.

    If you or any other director/committee member, chief executive officer or manager would like to more information I would be pleased to forward you various Standard 8 or governance presentations, articles or tools that may be of assistance.

    Regards Michael Goldsworthy

  3. Anonymous September 26, 2019 at 2:08 pm #

    Hi Anonymous, I am a volunteer on an aged care board that has residential and home care as well as retirement villages. I attended the masterclass. The masterclass listed a number areas that Board members need to demonstrate how they meet Standard 8. As a Board member you must be an active member and ensure that you receive reports that cover the key issues/areas such as, but not limited to, complaints (internal & external), restraints, psychotropic drugs, falls, medication errors, mandatory reporting etc. Never be afraid to ask questions at Board meetings and if you disagree with a decision ensure it is noted in the minutes. If you or other Board members want/need more training in regard to Standard 8 or other matters ask management to ensure that it is provided either through your industry association or having it provided in house.
    I intend to continue as a Board member.

  4. Meli Malani September 26, 2019 at 3:08 pm #

    I’m a fervent supporter of an effective governance regime being rolled out all aged care home providers.

    However there is a crucial element of balance that needs to be consistently maintained between the rigid application of the rule ( legislations, regulations and policies) and leadership with grace.

    Anyone from board to barracks can be a box ticker and goes home each day quietly satisfied of having done and dusted their day’s to-do list.

    But such an approach gives rise to a cover your backside culture which is rife in the industry. No one owns up to anything and therefore no one is held accountable. Which means that improving things is often hard. Workers fear raising issues because incompetent managers may feel personally implicated and therefore respond negatively towards workers. The end result is a consistent slide in work culture where the status quo is maintained with the ultimate objective of not creating waves at the expense of improving service for residents.

    The other concomitant to the balanced approach, leadership with grace, unfortunately is something that although can be learned and understood, is a function of one’s personality style and level of confide in once’s ability as a leader. Perhaps one can say that not everyone has got it. Therein lies the saying that not every gun nurse or a university graduate who is promoted to manager becomes good at the job. Why? Because leadership with grace and confidence cannot be acquired immediately like knowledge but is a function of guided experience over time plus personal style and attitude.

    In my experience in the aged care industry, at the centre of such improvement would be a modern knowledgeable board that embraces good governance AND recruits aged care facility managers who not only must of course be competent for the job in terms of requisite qualifications but also have the leadership skill to get the workers firing on all cylinders. Workers who come under such leaders provide the best service for our elderly folks and are the unsung heroes of the industries.
    I

  5. Heleni Bagiartakis September 30, 2019 at 10:29 am #

    I love that this conversation is being started! So many great organisations rely on the invaluable efforts and contributions of their volunteers. It would be a shame to see good organisations fade away under a veil of misconceptions and misunderstanding of the volunteer director’s role in this evolving sector. Share the message!

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