CVCheck’s Brett Fraser on aged care compliance: “People are going to be caught short.”

Bianca Compagnoni
15 Nov
Reading time: 10 minutes
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An interim report released by The Royal Commission on the Aged Care Quality and Safety last month uncovered the true state of the nation’s aged care facilities and service in what the ABC News called a ‘shocking tale of neglect.’

JobAdder partnered with CVCheck to discuss aged care compliance and what the report’s findings mean for the industry.

Brett Fraser, as the National Enterprise Manager at CVCheck, focuses heavily on the aged care industry as a speciality, due to what he sees as obvious gaps, and draws his attention to Aged Care and healthcare compliance.

Brett has worked with most of the large Aged Care providers and hospitals across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, and has co-authored a white paper detailing the overall strategy of Aged Care compliance in Australia.

His discussion with JobAdder’s Paul Molony focused on two key findings:

  1. Staying abreast of The Royal Commission findings;
  2. Understanding and acting on the findings

To begin with, Brett doesn’t believe there’s a need to necessarily worry about this report, but he does believe that there’s a need for further planning.

“The interim reports with any Royal Commissioner are designed to give us a full warning to say, ‘listen, these are the findings to date, and these are the things that you need to take heat off.’”

It’s important for leaders in the industry to understand that the longer they wait until the final report comes out, the more concerned they should be. Brett explained that what normally follows the Royal Commission is a very short period before they start to bring in some aggressive legislation changes.

He advises to stay on top of all information surrounding the Royal Commission and to give careful consideration and understand that everyone’s on board with the change for this industry.

Staying on top of the Aged Care Royal Commission report

How does one stay abreast of these Royal Commission findings?

For Brett, it’s time.

If you have it.

According to Brett, if you’re a large organisation, you probably have compliance or a risk department that should be across this, and they should be getting themselves through that.

“From a practical sense, if you’re part of an HR team, some of the easiest ways are to use technology such as Google alerts,” he explained. By using these alerts it will allow you to continually “get a feed-in and understand these small articles,” he added.

If you don’t have the technology in place, start looking, suggests Brett. There are 101 different types of technology out there that support more efficient processes and the learning and development modules.

This is “one of the key findings or key issues, and the media have a really great way of sensationalising or headlining those points. That’s the first thing,” he said.

Improvement through quality

Throughout the aged care industry in Australia, Brett asserts that 70% are migrant workers. When we look at the industry, the challenges as a whole can be summarised in one sentence: aged care is a hard job.

“We all know it’s a difficult job, yet it’s massively rewarding to the people that choose to be in it,” he said. According to “industry statistics, it’s one of the lowest-paid industries based on the care that we have to do,” said Brett. Further challenges present themselves where visa conditions need to be properly assessed, as the vast majority of staff are migrants.

It’s about whether they’re skilled enough, whether that skill will get them into the country, to make them compliant within your organisation, Brett suggests. Understand those challenges and acknowledge that it is difficult to find staff as it is a low paid industry. “It’s not a glamorous industry for a lot of people.”

According to Brett, if we compare to other industries out there, it’s a real challenge to find people. And certainly, for anyone who’s in recruitment in the aged care industry, it’s a continuous activity. It can never stop so you’re always looking for people.

Brett advises taking the key findings from the report where an entire section in the first volume talks about ‘workforce matters,’ it goes into topics and number one is the recruitment of good quality staff.

It’s about finding staff that are not only skilled but supported financially and upskilled with training and resources. He adds that it’s about making sure there are retention practices in place. It’s also focused on the upskilling or development of staff for the purpose of retention.”

The overall conclusion from the Aged Care compliance report is discovering and developing good quality staff to improve the industry.

Changes within the industry

Brett hoped that every webinar attendee was or would become aware of the challenges and changes the aged care industry faces. He noted that 77% of all large aged care facilities sit within metropolitan cities. That means that 23% sit outside in regional areas. There’s a couple of challenges that are faced there.

“Number one is a lack of significant subsidies offered by the government to attract people to these regional areas. I’m certainly not considering leaving a major city. So, I think probably from a government perspective, there needs to be a lot more support,” Brett explained.

He noted that David Coleman, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs announced that they would be opening up another 2000 or 2,400 visas for next year for skilled migrants in regional Australia. For Brett, this is brilliant and perhaps for many others, this is a step in the right direction, but support needs to be at hand.

The final report is due November 12, 2020. Once those findings are delivered, “there is a very short space of time before they start working within government to legislate some of those requirements,” explained Brett. He believes that we’re going to see some big changes, with the government stepping in. There’s going to be some regulation within the industry, which is what we haven’t had.

Once the findings have been delivered, this will be the universal standard in terms of what everyone needs to comply with, which he adds has already started to be researched and put into practice now.

The hunt for the big players

Brett advises that if you’re not across legislation requirements coming out next year, then they get recommended, but very aggressively. Once 2021 hits, people are “going to be caught short.”

Brett asserts that if organisations aren’t proactive now, the cost and the effect that it can have, can be pretty abrupt and aggressive.

“We have to understand that this is an industry that’s very close to people’s hearts in Australia, and it’s going to get more and more negative press as time goes along,” he pointed out. “The Royal Commission is already on the hunt for the big players.”

According to Brett, they’re currently in Tasmania running investigations on larger organisations such as Bupa who had everything from senior staff changes to redundancies.

Brett emphasises the seriousness of the Royal Commission, as people have to understand that even though it seems like a long way off, this is the time when they need to start having those conversations and say, ‘These changes are coming, do we have best practice along the path? Are all our systems in line with being able to support the onboarding, finding and retention of great quality people?’

Further questions should be asked around the robustness of training and development programs, as they need to show that organisations can train, support and retain great staff. This is where “we really need to get this in line,” he added.

The five-star rating agenda

More than half of aged care residents live in facilities with a one or two-star rating according to The University of Wollongong (UOW). The UOW underwent extensive research and based it off the American star rating system and compared it to some of the facilities and larger organisations across Australia, public and private.

Currently, 1.3% of aged care facilities within Australia have a five-star rating. Brett states that we’ll see a “regulatory system come in that will have a rating, which will be government-managed in some way, shape or form through a central database.”

Once this system is set up across all aged care facilities, regardless of how much money they want to pay or not, the information will be available to the public. People are making a choice to go into these aged care facilities. They’ll be able to say: ‘I can go to the three-star, four-star, five-star facility, public or private.’

This will allow the Australian public to make a genuine choice. Brett added that when you see a star system come in, facilities that don’t meet their compliance will simply be pushed from the industry, or will be suspended or heavily fined. Either way, it will be very difficult to operate in the industry unless you maintain a minimum rating.

Stepping up

Addressing the problem can come from different avenues. Brett believes that the government needs to step in and get closer to it.

This includes focusing on the massive pay gap, which is a contributing factor to why it is so difficult to attract and retain skilled aged care workers. Brett believes that it will take a little bit longer than just dealing with the day-to-day operators within the industry.

There’s the standard method where organisations or big players wait until the last minute to make changes. “They wait until that final report comes through because they think that’s the smartest way to do it. Then they act aggressively trying to change and meet that legislation and that’s a gamble,” said Brett.

For example, there was an incident with AMP in the finance industry. “They took a big beating for that, a massive beating.” The truth, he adds, is that it’s coming, it’s not going to go away, it’s not avoidable. If there’s a Royal Commission into it, these changes will become mandatory.

Act now and look at the way your business operates within the industry. At the end of the day, it’s all about care, suggests Brett. It’s about providing a level of care, and a level of respect. “If we have those things in line, we could spend more time on developing the real things that count, and that’s looking after the people in these facilities,” he said.

The three key takeaways

Brett concluded by discussing the key takeaways for his audience and our readers to understand.

First, is to look at the recruitment process, where a highlight of the report is titled ‘Workforce Matters,’ and the Royal Commission has highlighted the need for organisations, businesses and companies that operate within the aged care and healthcare industries to really put a focus on finding, developing and retaining good staff.

Linking to the recruitment process is the implementation of the right technology that will help support and develop a more efficient process.

If there’s anything to take away, it’s to understand that the public has become aware. “The government has no place to run now, in terms of changing this industry, and we’re going to see a lot of aggressive changes in the next 24 months – it’s going to be for the better,” said Brett.

He explained that whenever there are aggressive changes by government and whenever it’s forced to act, we’re going to see the good providers continue business as normal, and the people that are fringing on the line needing to lift their game. You also have people who haven’t operated according to the standard for a long time, perhaps never. “They’re simply going to be forced out of the industry.”

JobAdder will continue to host quarterly webinars circulating around the aged care service crisis. To keep updated, follow us on social.

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