Above: GM of Kalyna Care, Mark Sheldon-Stemm
The following opinion piece was written in response to the online AAA article, Single voice a misguided ideal, about the creation of the new national peak body for aged care, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA).
In the article, CEO of Hammond Care, Dr Stephen Judd, speaks against the creation of ‘a single voice’ as it is not “an ideal that we should automatically or slavishly aspire to”.
“Those who advocate a ‘single voice’ invariably think that the single voice should be theirs,” said Dr Judd. “It’s a furphy. We should aspire to coherence and dynamic debate and we should not have a ‘single voice’ when there are legitimate differences.”
In my opinion…
According to the general manager of Kalyna Care, Mark Sheldon-Stemm, believes the debate about establishing ‘a single voice’ must be seen in the context of what has been happening over many years.
“…Those who have been in aged care for a short period might wonder what is going on and why the sudden move. It is only normal to think this, but if the history of trying to form a single national body is understood then the move does not seem so adventurous or bold.
“Over the past 12 to 13 years, providers have faced increasing challenges of reduced funding, increased standards through accreditation, reduced business opportunities due to fewer licences being issued and increased competition for skilled staff, and looked to their respective peak bodies to address this. One has to say that success has not been overwhelming and speaking with different voices has been a major contributor to this lack of success.
Having been part of the board of Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) from 1997 to 2001, the discussions about who ACSA represents were “on the table” as a result of ACQ opening its membership up to all providers (I will call them the charitable and private providers) around 1999. Once ACQ moved in this direction (and ACCV also did this some years later) ACSA effectively represented both sets of providers.
The ACSA board has struggled with this issue ever since then but when you look at what providers do there are very few differences between providers (charitable or private). Each one has the same accreditation and certification requirements, client catchment, labour pool and need for qualified staff, sources of funding, investment decisions, licensing requirements, and process for acquiring licences.
These commonalities are at the core of the sector and all providers are in the same position. Therefore, the only real difference between the two types of providers is what they do with their meagre surpluses. The charitable providers are bound by law to use any surpluses within their organisation, community or other charitable purposes. If there is a discussion about what is different between the two sets of providers then it should occur ‘below the bottom line’. Our peak bodies are there to look after us ‘above the bottom line’.
What has stopped a single peak body being formed if ACSA have been representing both sets of providers over the past 13 years? I can only speak for my time at the ACSA board but any progress in discussions was always dominated by a few individuals who refused to see the vast commonalities and concentrated on the minor differences. These individuals were prepared to ‘die in the ditch’ to stop a broad level representation, even though ACSA were already doing so.
It would appear that 13 years later this might still be the case: a few individuals who are ‘standing in the way’ and perhaps it is time for them to move aside and allow the overall membership to have the one voice that is much needed. I understand that the new national peak body has a place at the table for those who are left in ASCA and I would encourage them to considering joining the rest of the industry in the one voice.
Finally, I have used the term charitable instead of the term not–for–profit, as this term has no real meaning to anybody whereas the term charitable is well recognised. Every provider is required to make a profit or surplus to continue to deliver their service.”
Mark Sheldon-Stemm is a Fellow of the Institute of Public Accountants; has qualifications in psychology, sociology, economics and strategic foresight; and has worked in the aged care sector for 15 years.