Service providers need to understand their point of difference and communicate that clearly to the My Aged Care Regional Assessment Services.
That’s the key advice from Ricki Smith, CEO of Access Care Network Australia (ACNA), one of the 13 RAS contractors for the Commonwealth Home Support Programme.
Ms Smith said that providers needed to understand what made their organisation unique and ask their RAS what was the best way of getting that information to them.
Speaking to Community Care Review ahead of her presentation at the forthcoming Being Home 2025 Conference, Ms Smith said that running a special dementia program, operating on weekends or delivering activities at night were all examples of points of difference a provider might have.
Ms Smith, whose organisation is also an operator of a RAS for the Home and Community Care program in Western Australia, said the current sector concerns over delayed referrals were also an experience of the WA launch.
She said it would take about three months before referrals began to flow more evenly though the system.
Change in service referrals under wellness framework
Following the introduction of regional assessment services in WA, the state witnessed a drop in referrals for pre-prepared meals and centre-based day care, but it saw a spike in demand for social support and home modifications, said Ms Smith.
“What we were finding was that clients had a preference for somebody coming in and cooking with them rather than having a prepared meal delivered and for more personalised social support such as going shopping or for walks than might have been available to them in a centre.”
Reflecting on the sector adjustment period in WA, she said it also took time for service providers to build trust in the quality of the assessment process.
“We found in the early stages a lot of service providers were duplicating the assessment process. However, over time the service providers appreciated the quality of the independent assessment and learned to trust it and changed their system or their methods to be able to build on what was there, not start from scratch.”
Ms Smith said clients in WA have benefited from a consistent system of assessment and greater transparency about wait list information, which has aided decision-making. “We now know whether a service provider has availability, which means clients can choose to go on a waitlist or they can try someone with immediate availability.
“It is a change that has supported those smaller organisations to fill their availability and it has meant that clients have received services more quickly.”
Advantages of independent assessment
Ms Smith said one of the major benefits of separating service provision from assessment was that it focused the role and skills development of the assessors and ensured that clients only received services when they were required.
“The only thing my assessors do is assess, which means that we have been able to invest in training and development around that skill set. In the past, in many organisations the role of the assessor was linked to that of a coordinator or a manager of delivery teams and so they had to be able to do many different things.”
She said ACNA has also been able to invest in testing new ways of assessment and specialty areas such as assessment among people with dementia or culturally and linguistically diverse clients.
Since July, Ms Smith said the organisation has moved from conducting ‘tell me’ to ‘show me’ assessments in WA, where clients are encouraged to demonstrate how they are currently managing areas where they require support.
She said this represented a significant change in approach and results for clients and their need for ongoing services would be analysed.
Access Care Network Australia, a division of the Silver Chain Group delivers the My Aged Care RAS in Adelaide and parts of Queensland.
Ricki Smith will be presenting at the Being Home 2025 Conference hosted by Community Options Australia on 14-15 September in Sydney.
Community Care Review is the conference media partner.
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