Co-operatives and mutuals a key focus of Budget funding for aged care innovation

30 March 2022

The Federal Government is turning to Australia’s co-operatives and mutuals sector to help improve the quality and diversity of services provided to older Australians, people living with disability and veterans around the nation.

With $6.9 million in funding outlined in the 2022/23 Budget, the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) will work with communities to co-design social care projects in areas that were deemed by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety to be most in need. These include rural, remote, and regional communities and Indigenous services as well as more housing options allowing people to ‘age well’ in community settings.

The Chief Executive of the BCCM, Melina Morrison, welcomed the Government’s decision to fund the Co-operative and Mutual Enterprises (CME) Support Program with a three-year rollout.

“This package is recognition that the aged care and broader care sector must explore new business models. Co-operatives and mutuals are organisations that are owned and run by members, such as consumers, non-profit service providers, employees or people in the local community,” Ms Morrison said.

“The Royal Commission demonstrated clearly that the current system is broken and not able to provide the level of care and respect that older Australians deserve. We need new perspectives and innovative solutions that address the shortcomings highlighted by the Royal Commission and ensure people have access to quality services regardless of where they live.

“Co-operatives and mutuals are ideally suited to the provision of aged care and broader care services because they place those being cared for, as well as those providing the care, at the heart of the solution. In a co-op, people not profits are the beginning, middle and end purpose of the business.”

Under the Co-operative and Mutual Enterprises Support Program, the Federal Government will provide $6.9 million to fund the establishment of a national support program to advise communities on how to start new co-operatives in aged care and other care sectors and help existing co-operatives to grow.

The BCCM is the peak industry body representing co-operatives and mutuals with 96 member organisations covering more than 11 million individual members, including 60,000 businesses. The sector has an estimated combined turnover of $35 billion.

“We believe when older Australians and care workers are empowered through ownership – as members of a co-operative, they find creative solutions that draw on community and family networks in a circle of care,” Ms Morrison said. “Co-designing solutions with smaller regional and remote communities is also an opportunity to involve other health and care professionals in a place-based circle of integrated care.”

The program will also provide resources to explore how digitally enabled co-operative business models can help smaller community owned enterprises to network and grow.

“There are highly effective co-operatives operating in social care sectors, including the NDIS, with potential to increase their impact in areas that struggle to deliver quality services,” Ms Morrison said.

“The Co-operative and Mutuals Support Program will foster a sharing of information and knowledge about the co-operative business model to replicate and grow these successful models in other communities.”

The BCCM has assisted several new alternative social care co-operatives and mutuals to start-up and grow and has a proven model of co-design and peer mentorship and support that would be implemented in this program.

Steve Anthony, founder and CEO of Supported Independent Living Co-operative, said support from the BCCM had been instrumental in establishing the model of housing and care his own family and other families like his were able to provide young adults living with disability.

“Our co-op structure allows for a highly integrated and supportive approach to how we are working together as a community to support our children to live their best life,” Mr Anthony said. “It’s empowered us to make the right choices for our family and transformed the quality of care.”

Ms Morrison said that the program would help facilitate greater diversity and choice in Australian aged care services, while also creating opportunities for workers in the sector to have their vocation recognised in business models that invest in their skills and training, their conditions and satisfaction.

“There is clear evidence linking employee and consumer ownership to higher levels of workplace engagement and increased productivity. Co-operatives can help non-profit and community-based organisations to come together to develop sustainable and coordinated approaches in growing a skilled workforce,” Ms Morrison said.

The BCCM said the program will assist with the establishment of 6-7 new co-operative or mutual enterprises in the aged care sector as well as advising on the growth or up-scaling of a further six existing member-owned enterprises.

Media Enquiries: Sue Frost, P&L Corporate Communications 0409 718572.

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