Member-owned aged care puts the consumer at the centre

27 January 2021

The Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) today released Action to Empower, a treatise on the potential for Co-operative and Mutual Enterprises (CMEs) to transform social care in Australia.

BCCM CEO, Melina Morrison said Action to Empower offers an insight into how member-owned businesses contribute to achieving better consumer outcomes driven by high levels of employee engagement and organisational performance.

“Co-operative and mutual enterprises are borne out of the communities they serve. Social care is at its best when the community it is designed to serve is at the heart of its governance. There could be no more natural fit for Aged Care, or any form of social care, than the co-operative model,” Morrison said.The Interim Report from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety was tellingly entitled Neglect, exposing sub-standard levels of care with poor consumer outcomes causing distress and heartache for families and carers.

Ahead of the final report from the Royal Commission, Action to Empower warrants careful consideration, shining a light on a better way of operating and governing aged care organisations, making them more accountable to the members they serve.

By empowering members, be they consumers, employees, communities or a hybrid of these, providers can be held accountable for outcomes so that older Australians are cared for with the respect and dignity they deserve.

“If we are to achieve the cultural shifts required to lift the quality of care, the reform of aged care needs to foster more diversity in the types of organisations providing the care,” Morrison said.

“In quasi-markets like Aged Care, which rely on significant government funding along with consumer contributions, there is an argument for Government having a more significant market stewardship role and using this as a way to achieve public policy outcomes such as increased quality and safety, equity and workforce sustainability.

“There are examples of innovative programs in health and social care involving co-operatives and mutuals that have been very successful in fostering more diverse markets to achieve better outcomes such as increasing service quality and safety, attracting and retaining skilled workers and ensuring continuity of care in thin markets.”

Gillian McFee, Non-Executive Director of Kudos Services, an employee-owned mutual delivering disability services for children and young people, and author of Action to Empower said the benefits of member-owned social care organisations were clear.

“Research from Australian and UK case studies included in the Action to Empower report shows that member-owned models offer three main benefits:

  • Improved organisational performance and efficiency
  • Consumer and employee engagement, with a resulting influence on service improvement and workforce development; and
  • Wider benefits to society resulting from a greater sense of citizen empowerment and responsibility,” McFee said.

“There is an opportunity to embrace innovation and build on co-operatives’ and mutuals’ proven successes, by applying lessons learned from these case studies to improve service quality and consumer outcomes in Australia’s aged care sector.  A new perspective on how we deliver Aged Care is essential if we are to apply a new paradigm designed to deliver care that is befitting Australians in 2021.”

Read Action to Empower in full.

Listen to Melina Morrison talking to Fran Kelly about Action to Empower and Aged Care on ABC Breakfast.

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