Help available for a risky business

A series of seminars, starting soon, will directly target the kinds of organisations that abound in the aged care sector.

Above: Dr Malcolm Freeman.

By Stephen Easton

Aged care providers know how hard it is to chart a safe course through the minefields of risk that lurk below the deceptively calm surface of their heavily regulated sector, but help is available.

A new seminar series, starting in Melbourne next month, aims to help small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) and not-for-profits (NFPs) improve their own individual plans to manage risk, particularly that which comes from regulatory compliance obligations.

According to presenters Gillian Kinder and Dr Malcolm Freeman, smaller businesses and those run by church and charitable organisations find it especially difficult to commit as much time and resources to risk management as they would, in a perfect world.

“We’re interested in helping the SMEs and the not-for-profits,” Ms Kinder said. “The BHP Billitons of the world can look after themselves, quite frankly.”

But even big players can fall afoul of the government’s complex web of rules, according to Dr Freeman.

“I once worked for a large property company, which had a very good internal audit system, but at the end of the day the board made decisions and the decisions weren’t very good, and the company got into trouble,” he said. “So even at the top end of town they get into trouble – the corporate world is littered with big companies and organisations that have stuffed up along the way, but the SMEs and NFPs are more vulnerable – it hits them much, much harder.”

On top of the standards and accreditation regime that applies to aged care, other more general compliance clouds are visible on the horizon, such as the harmonisation of occupational health and safety (OH&S) laws across Australia and the establishment of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), both of which are slated to take effect from July 2012.

“We’re not sure exactly how [the ACNC] will operate, but it will probably be along the same lines as ASIC – so these [non-profit] organisations will have to prove their corporate governance is up to scratch. That’s very important; their corporate governance regimes will come under much more scrutiny.

“They’ll [also] have to make sure their OH&S regimes are up to scratch – there will generally be more pressure on that sector to bring their game plan up to date, to make sure things don’t go wrong and they comply with all the new rules and Acts.”

Dr Freeman is also a specialist in risks related to fire safety, which formed the topic of his PhD thesis, and is of particular concern to residential aged care providers, for whom emergency evacuation is clearly a frightening scenario.

The highly qualified risk management and compliance consultant said he and Ms Kinder, both fellows of Chartered Secretaries Australia, would run their seminars as interactive workshops, focusing on the individual situations of participants.

“There’ll be case studies discussed and the participants will be encouraged to talk about their own situations in a workshop-type seminar,” he said. “Instead of listening to a speaker for two hours, I find the workshop situation works better than a straight seminar because everyone’s got a story to tell.

“Really, you’ve got to tailor a program for each individual situation. There are basics, but every aged care facility has its own specific issues or risks, and the plan’s got to be skewed toward that specific business or organisation. Each individual organisation needs an individual plan.” 

The  seminar series will be launched on 11 August in Melbourne with a half-day condensed program, which will be followed initially by two expanded full-day sessions, in Sydney and Melbourne respectively.

For more information or to register your interest in attending, click here to email Dr Malcolm Freeman from Business Risk Management Matrix Investigations or here to email Gillian Kinder from Compliance Essentials.

Tags: accreditation, australian-charities-and-not-for-profits-commission, compliance, not-for-profit, occupational-health-and-safety, regulation, risk, seminar, standards,

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