Big changes for largest residential provider

One of the biggest providers of aged services in the country has announced an extensive executive restructuring plan to improve efficiency and be better prepared for the challenges of the coming decade.

Above:  Director of UnitingCare Ageing NSW & ACT, Steve Teulan

By Keryn Curtis

The biggest provider of aged services in NSW and the ACT  – and Australia’s largest provider of residential aged care – has unveiled a major management and governance restructure which it says will make it more efficient, more responsive and better able to deliver on its mission to provide services to disadvantaged older people in the challenging years ahead.

UnitingCare Ageing NSW ACT staff were informed on Monday that the organisation would undergo a substantial organisational restructure, including inevitable managerial job losses, in order to retain its leadership position and its ability to meet its mission.  

Director of UnitingCare Ageing, Mr Stephen Teulan, said the changes were vital to ensure the organisation continued to achieve its purpose in a more competitive environment, responding to the changing demands of consumers and the changing role of government.

“This is about the organisation maturing and entering a new phase,” said Mr Teulan.

“The current management structure and regional board structure was developed in 2003 and was designed to bring together 52 smaller boards into the one organisation. That was the first phase.

“Nine years down the track, this new phase is about focusing on specialist expertise and leadership.  So rather than having a structure based on geographic location, we will have a structure based on specialist knowledge and skills,” he said.

“The strategy is to build on what we are good at.  We have specialist services for people who are marginalised, homeless, for indigenous people, for people with younger onset dementia and people with mental health problems.  

“We offer services for people from 21 different language groups.  Probably nobody else has as much investment in these marginal areas.” 

“We need to continue to build on those areas and continue to grow and do this in an environment that is changing like never before,” Mr Teulan said.

A new structure

Under the current structure, there are six geographical regions, each with its own set of service managers reporting to a general regional director.  The new specialist structure will see the six general regional directors replaced with specialist directors responsible for community care, residential care and supported housing, who will have responsibility for that particular service area across the whole organisation.  

“At the moment the regions have a general management structure where the same senior managers manage all the service areas.  This new structure fits with the next part of our strategy. 

“We have the eighth largest retirement village structure in Australia so we should have specialist expertise in that.  In community care packages, we have three per cent of all packages in the country and 11 per cent of the packages in NSW.  And we have the largest number of residential care beds in Australia.

“We have a huge number of aged care services to look after and part of our strategy is about leadership in them – in community care, residential care and independent living. So we need to invest in those areas to ensure we are distinctive and remain leaders,” Mr Teulan said.

Mr Teulan said it was not easy to say how many jobs would be entirely cut in the restructuring process.

“It is not that simple because we have also extended our management positions to include more specialist leadership roles in community care and supported housing.

“We do not know exactly how many roles yet.  We have a total of 6,500 staff and we will reduce the number of roles in the tens, not the hundreds,” he said.

Facing the future

Mr Teulan said that what people can’t ignore is that the external environment for aged services is changing faster than ever before.  

“We are operating in a constrained funding environment and it will continue to be constrained and as a result we have to be more efficient. 

“Consumers will demand choice and greater value for money; governments don’t want to spend more money and they can’t continue to do so at the same level.  There is a whole range of different forces at work in a much more competitive environment which means we all need to look at how we structure what we do,” he said.

We were looking at things like consumer directed care, a more competitive, faster changing  environment, and we have agreed we need to be more responsible and flexible.  We need to be agile; to be able to make changes quickly.”

Protection for direct care staff

Mr Teulan says the structural changes will not affect any staff or managers working at the service delivery level.

The organisation has taken steps to speak with both the Australian Nurses Union (ANF) and the Health Services Union (HSU).

“We have good relationships with the unions and we always keep them informed so we did this as a matter of course.”

Tags: restructuring, steve-teulan, UnitingCare Ageing NSW & ACT,

2 thoughts on “Big changes for largest residential provider

  1. Steve Teulan’s new structure mirrors that introduced by sister organisation Blue Care in Queensland on 1 July 2008. Specialist executives responsible for community care, residential and housing across the whole organisation provide the best chance for replicating best practice, efficiency, improved consumer outcomes and value for money for the funder (government). The alternative structure of regions/clusters with general managers is a recipe for lack of specialisation, loss of competitiveness and declining financial sustainability. Good on Steve – a beacon of light and vision for Uniting Care.

  2. Interesting comment by S Schultz, particularly given the new Blue Care CEO has dismantled the specialist executives model and replaced it with a generic manager model.
    Obviously the different Church jurisdictions aren’t sharing notes with NSW now embracing specialist knowledge and Qld moving back to generalist knowledge.
    As S Schultz so succinctly put it – “specialist executives provide the best chance for replicating best practice, efficiency, improved customer outcomes and value for money. Generalist managers is a recipe for lack of specialisation, loss of competitiveness and declining financial sustainability.”
    Steve Teulan must have been made aware of Blue Care’s declining financial return while implementing his restructure.
    Good on you Steve.

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