Above: Aged Care Association Australia CEO, Rod Young, yesterday at the launch of the National Aged Care Alliance Blueprint for Aged Care Reform.

By Keryn Curtis

Seven months after Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) announced it had resolved to pursue a merger with Aged Care Association Australia (ACAA), the ACSA board has overturned the decision, citing insufficient support among its state membership.

In a statement released late this morning, ACSA national president, Rob Hankins, said consultation with member States had indicated that there was insufficient support for the change to occur, ‘which in itself would have been a complex process’.

According to the statement, the Board has reaffirmed its commitment that, “given the urgency to focus on a once in a lifetime aged care reform opportunity, as well as the need to actively influence the emerging NFP environment – which includes the nascent establishment of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) – it would be focusing its full attention on the importance of these priorities to the not-for-profit sector.”

Mr Hankins said that despite yesterday’s decision not to progress with the merger, widespread support across the sector for wholesale reforms remains essential during this critical period.

“ACSA will continue to cooperate closely with other relevant bodies such as NACA to seek unity on national reform issues and will seek to further its close working relationship with ACAA by strengthening the Aged Care Industry Council advocacy process.”

Chief exective officer of ACAA, Rod Young, said he was obviously disappointed with the decision.

“We had held a position for five years that supported moving toward merger status with ACSA.  So when ACSA started making the decision to have those discussions, in our mind, it was the correct course to take.  

“Considerable effort has gone into this process. We have moved diligently to reach an agreement of minds about what the organisation would look like and were developing a draft constitution, so obviously we’re disappointed.”

Mr Young said he was reluctant to comment extensively prior to an ACAA board meeting next week where the matter would be discussed and a formal response issued. However, he said it seemed likely that the two organisations would continue to have different CEOs for at least the next three years.

AAA spoke with Mr Hankins briefly this afternoon but telecommunications problems prevented an interview.  AAA also spoke with Aged Care Queensland chief executive, Nick Ryan, who said ACQ would be consulting with its members to understand their views and responses and would issue a response tomorrow.

Complex history

The issue of a merger between the two organisations has a long history, marked by strong views on both sides but the stakes in the debate were raised in October 2010 when a report by management consultants, The Nous Group, commissioned by ACSA (and leaked to AAA), recommended that ACSA investigate a merger with ACAA.  The report found that, on balance, the positives of a merger outweighed the negatives.  

A second report on the subject was released in early May 2011 by  PricewaterhouseCoopers entitled, ‘Is the sum greater than its parts? The value of a single industry aged care association’.  PricewaterhouseCoopers had been independently commissioned by the two state-based peak bodies, Aged and Community Care Victoria (ACCV) and Aged Care Queensland (ACQ), both already ‘merged’ organisations.  

The report’s authors said its purpose was to kick-start the conversation by providing some operational models for consideration at a crucial juncture in time for the aged care sector in Australia.

When the ACSA national board announced in July that it had decided to proceed with pursuing a merger, ACSA’s then president, Klaus Zimmermann, said the only thing that could possibly stand in the way of the formation of a single peak body for aged care was  a ‘no’  vote from ACSA members when the question of the proposed merger was put to the organisation at the general meeting in November last year.

However, he said the organisation had spent the last 18 months collecting feedback and consulting members on the issue and he was extremely confident that the majority of voters would support the plans for a single peak national body.

The decision to take a vote at ACSA’s November general board meeting was subsequently postponed.

The decision was made yesterday at an ACSA national board meeting held in Canberra and was announced this morning, shortly after the launch of the National Aged Care Alliance Blueprint for Aged Care Reform at Parliament House.

Merger milestones:

  • October 2010 – A report by the Nous Group, commissioned by ACSA, recommends ACSA investigate a merger with ACAA, saying the negatives outweigh the positives [read the news story]
  • May 2011 – PricewaterhouseCoopers report released [read the news story]
  • July 2011 – ACSA announces decision to seek merger with ACAA [read the news story]
  • September 2011 – ACAA Board gives formal agreement to merger [read the news story]
  • October 2011 – ACSA announces merger will not be on agenda for November board meeting [read the news story]

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5 Comments

  1. What an absolute disappointment!! At a time when a single strong body representing the Industry would assist and hopefully stop the divide and conquer tactic that might be applied by the government on the important issues around reform. We now continue to look like a rabble who can’t even get their own house in order including their focus tuned onto the best way forward for Aged Care.
    Individual members and state bodies who have caused this change should look at why they want the status quo to remain, is it to protect their power base or positions within the industry I can think of no other good reaason.
    Of course common sense will eventually prevail and probably in the short term so why hold off the ineviteable. I really thought all smart thinkers had accepted that this should occur, certainly that was the indication at the national ACSA conferences and meetings I attended in the last two years so whats made the change. It certainly has not changed within the body of industry representatives I am involved with. Lift your horizons and let commonsense prevail.

  2. I find the reasons behind the decision to be very poor indeed.

    I agree that we need to focus on reform while we have the opportunity, but surely it has been confirmed that the way to achieve this is through one string, united, loud voice?

    And what is with the reference to the NFP sector? While I can appreciate that in the dark ages, ACSA was focused on NFP organisations, my understanding is that both for profit and not for profit members are represented by ACSA.

    If this is not the case, someone could have informed me before taking our membership fees again.

    I hope that things can change and we can get some uniformity.

    Nick McDonald

    CEO – Prestige Inhome Care

  3. What a bitter disappointment. It was mooted that the ACSA survey of “members” (i.e. those who are providers of services and pay their membership fees as opposed to industry peak bodies and their Boards) voted in favour of merger. If we truly believe that we work through our industry peaks to provide the best we can for those for whom we provide care and support, and at the same time the wellbeing of employees and the fiscal viability of our organisations, it appears that this decision flies in the face of those ideals. Yet again it would seem, that some kind of self interest will prevent a single strong voice on aged care issues – at a time when we do have a “once in a lifetime opportunity to get some real reform”. This is indeed a dark day for our industry, and our elders.

  4. I don’t know about a ‘dark day for our industry’ but it’s certainly been a ‘dark year for ACSA’! Who would have thought in 2010 when ACSA was at the centre of a broadly-based Federal Election campaign, when it was a ‘go to’source in aged care, with a talented team of staff, that by early 2012 they would be looking for their second new CEO in 12 months (third if you include 6 months of acting) that over half the staff would have left and that they would still be thrashing about on a question (nfp or not) that’s been on the table since the 1990s? An unhappy time,and a waste of talent, though ACSA’s losses have been aged care consumers’, palliative care’s and the ambulance sector’s gains. Better luck this year ACSA…

  5. There is no doubt that ACSA lost their way and became distracted by this side issue when clearly they should have been focussing on the PC and needed industry reforms.

    NACA is a great vehicle for bringing all the different interest groups together as ‘one voice’ for purposes of lobbying an ailing government.

    Meanwhile, democracy has prevailed and the Federation of state peak bodies represents state interests at a time many in the ES were not interested in assisting WA with their particular issues

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