ACSA distances itself from merger talk as progresses own restructure

The president of Aged and Community Services Australia has dismissed the mounting campaign by Leading Age Services Australia for a merger between the two organisations, saying the push for a single peak body is about securing LASA’s “survival”.

ACSA president Vaughan Harding
ACSA president Vaughan Harding

The president of Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) has publicly dismissed the campaign by Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) for a merger between the two organisations, saying the push for a single peak body is about securing LASA’s “survival”.

In an address to ACSWA’s state conference in Perth yesterday, ACSA federal president Vaughan Harding said the ‘one voice’ argument for a single peak was “simplistic and does not withstand any scrutiny”.

Mr Harding’s comments follow the speech last week by LASA chair Dr Graeme Blackman in which he revived the argument for a LASA-ACSA merger. As reported by Australian Ageing Agenda, Dr Blackman told the LASA Q conference that “the lack of an influential, unified voice in aged services continues to harm us in producing stronger advocacy to government and stakeholders.”

Dr Blackman announced that LASA, like ACSA, was now investigating a move towards a national structure, which he said would act as a stepping-stone to creating a single peak.

However, Mr Harding countered that view in his address yesterday, saying of ACSA’s move to a national model: “This is not about a merger with another industry body.”

“The call for a merger that you’re hearing is more about survival of another body than anything else,” he said.

Further, Mr Harding said: “ACSA would need to have a very clear mandate from members to enter into any conversation about a merger.”

LASA: ‘Saddened and bemused’

Responding to the comments, LASA said it was “bemused and a little saddened about cheap shots” suggesting it was pursuing the merger for its sustainability. “LASA has grown year on year and continues to do so. It appears that these statements are created by a lack of understanding of the LASA model and also perhaps a tinge of the politics of envy,” CEO Patrick Reid told AAA.

He said LASA contended that as the industry was “federally funded, federally legislated, federally regulated and had a federal industrial relations and accreditation framework that affected all providers” it made sense to have “the same unitary approach in representation of aged care providers.”

“We do not believe that a unity ticket is necessarily some generic approach and as always will require nuance, but it is plain that providers of all types have more akin than apart and as such we need to celebrate diversity, but ensure that what differentiates us is not used by miscreants to divide us,” said Mr Reid.

He added: “We look forward to the time when aged care provider representatives can sit down and have a reasoned and mature discussion about what representation providers really require.”

ACSA progresses restructure

Elsewhere yesterday Mr Harding said that ACSA’s transition to a national body would be a two to three-year process. Member organisations had their own legal structures and needed to take into account their due diligence obligations in the process, he said.

Outlining the reasons for adopting a national model, he said the peak body was keen to make optimal use of its resources, and become more effective at influencing government policy and direction.

“We have a rapidly evolving sector and it’s very important that our national body is able to keep up with the changes and provide the leadership that’s required.”

Leadership for the not-for-profit aged care sector in particular would be “critical” to ensure that a buoyant and sustainable sector emerged from the reforms, he said.

Next steps

Mr Harding confirmed there would be special general meetings in June to provide ACSA members with key documents including a draft legal framework, the proposed new national fee structure, the outline of key services, and a transition plan.

It was proposed that the new ACSA would commence from July this year, while it continued to review and implement recommendations on services, systems and structures, he said.

In October individual ACSA members would resolve at their annual general meetings to move to the national model, while from July 2016 the proposed new fee model would commence, Mr Harding said.

Related AAA coverage: LASA agitates for peak body merger


Tags: acsa, acswa, Dr Graeme Blackman, lasa, LASA Q, LASA-ACSA merger, vaughan-harding,

5 thoughts on “ACSA distances itself from merger talk as progresses own restructure

  1. It is very sad but unfortunately typical of the lack of a united approach by the peak bodies to best represent our industry. While we may have different business goals we are still all here for our residents and our clients. No wonder there are splinter groups and organisations such us COTA taking on an increasingly influential position. Until then the government is benefitting from piecemeal lobbying and can easily claim that each is only representing a small part of the industry. When aged care decides to grow up we will be in a much better position.

  2. Far too much time and energy has been wasted on industry peak bodies navel gazing in search of a stronger single voice over past 5 years that should have been directed towards keeping the Government honest about achieving true industry reform. While it may be ‘convenient’ for the Federal Government to only have one peak industry body to deal with, the terms of uniting ACSA & LASA would be too costly in the compromises we would have to make to make it work. Even with the move to amalgamate state bodies of the same affiliation without the loss of local autonomy and voice is of concern, as compromise for unity comes at a great cost when the larger, stronger bodies & voices drown the smaller ones. There remains strength in diversity and even diverse groups can effectively unite to obtain the ear of Government to alter policy. Long live ACSA & LASA and their respective state bodies!!!

  3. Congratulations to Vaughan Harding for holding the line.

    Having spent 8 years in the UK on the board of the nfp equivalent of ACSA, the National Care Forum (NCF), and 5 years as chairman I recognise the debate. It has been a one that has consumed much energy and time in the UK as it has here in Australia.

    Governments will always demand that industry speaks with one voice and this has been the case in the UK. It makes the lives of public officials easier in dealing with the sector. In the UK, as in Australia, there is continuous pressure for the representative bodies to get their act together and merge. However the nfp sector in both countries, and indeed in the US, occupies a distinctive, and very different, space to our for profit colleagues and competitors. Nfp providers operate differently and have different business and mission based dynamics to those who are driven by share holder value. Both have important parts to play and as a shareholder I have great respect for the private sector. However to think that they can speak as one in their engagement with governments and society is wrong.

    In the UK the NCF has resisted calls to merge with the larger, and mainly for profit body. ACSA should stick to its guns and maintain constantly that it represents the distinctive voice of the not for profit, church and charitable sector. Social enterprise by commercially and mission driven organisations represents the future for public service delivery in Australia and these organisations are likely to remain long after those looking for shorter term financial return on investment have moved on to other market opportunities. ACSA and LASA represent fundamentally different constituencies. They need to maintain their distinctive voices and collaborate and sing in harmony wherever it is appropriate to do so.

  4. Andrew makes a really valid point.

    With economic rationalism, commodification and marketization of services appealing to large for profit businesses, it is really important that the nfp sector has an even stronger and more distinct voice. Not just for providers, but more importantly, for those to whom services are provided, those marginalised and the broader community.

    The sector must not lose sight of its reason for being, the importance of contributing to civil society, and seeking out and engaging in innovative approaches such as social enterprise.

    This would not be served by merging both bodies and having a “single voice” as LASA would like. The differences between the two sectors are much more than mere “nuance”.

  5. oh my goodness, I don’t think I’ve ever heard COTA referred to as a ‘splinter group’ …. Fancy those consumers thinking they have a right to speak up for themselves!

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