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Community Organisations in a Climate of Change: Managing the Transition [Blog]

Panellists at the Ageing, Disability and Mental Health Collaborative Panel’s forum on community organisations in a climate of change.Significant changes are sweeping through the community sector, bringing in a new, more inclusive era of service delivery relating to ageing, disability and mental health across Australia. Hopes are high, but there is also trepidation and fatigue for service providers, clients and their carers.

The most significant change being introduced under the National Disability Insurance Scheme, aged care and mental health services reform is a stronger focus on the client.

This includes:

  • Choice and control: The Government will now provide funding to the client (rather than the service provider), giving them choice and control over how supports and services are designed and provided to meet their often complex needs. They can also choose which organisations will deliver them.
  • A focus on outcomes: Instead of reporting on inputs and outputs of their activities, service providers will report on the impact they are having on individuals (eg. has a client’s quality of life improved?); a group of people (eg. are people living in an area better off than they were before?); or across a population.

This is forcing service providers to rethink their business models.  At the same time, changes to funding and procurement practices, tighter budgets, higher governance and accountability requirements, and a more competitive environment are adding to the pressure they are feeling.

What does it look like at the coalface?

This week, Brodie Woodland and I attended a forum hosted by the Ageing, Disability and Mental Health Collaborative Panel, which consists of peak bodies in Victoria, to discuss its report Community organisations in a climate of change. The report outlines the changes affecting the sector and offers guidance on possible responses based on lessons learned from pilots and good practice.

Community organisations, clients and carers participating in panel discussions captured the highs and lows of these transformational changes as the pilots are rolled out in Victoria. Stories of aspiration and empowerment were told alongside cautions of people with a disability having to fight to retain services as the system changed.

“We are moving from a paternalistic care model to community inclusion and integration.”  David Moody, Victoria State Manager, National Disability Service

“The dream of many consumers is to have a peer network, to learn from each other, exchange information, be inspired by each other’s stories and have the experience of mental health normalised and not be judged.” Neil Turton-Lane, Senior Consumer Consultant, Mental Health Community Support Services, cohealth

 “What’s needed?  Staff that listen and respect my own expert knowledge of my disability, how it affects me and what works best for me.” Kylie McCutcheon, Barwon NDIS pilot participant

“The workforce implications for our transition to NDIS are massive and a major concern. Market failure is a big risk.” Nigel Fidgeon, CEO, Merri Community Health Services

“Many carers have not had to deal with the level of budgeting they will now need to assist with and they will essentially become an employer. They are already overwhelmed by caring and are concerned by the additional responsibilities.” Caroline Mulcahy, CEO, Carers Victoria

“It’s going to be great, but….” Sue Hendy, CEO, COTA

So how can community organisations prepare?

Community organisations are walking a tightrope, seeking a balance between maintaining service continuity while implementing these changes, some of which will take several years to realise.
Some practical tips to keep in mind include:

  • Manage the change: This is a significant process and won’t just happen while you are busy doing your normal work. Define the change your organisation will go through, plan it, resource it and manage it well, reflecting continuously so you keep on track.
  • Use this as an opportunity to review your strategic plan and ensure your governance and business processes are aligned with your future state.
  • Communicate, consult and engage with staff, clients, carers and the community to define and implement the change. There may be ups and downs, but if you all know where you are heading and why, the journey will be smoother.
  • This is a multi-year effort so manage stress and fatigue. Monitor your staff rosters so they are not working excessive hours, ensure staff take leave and encourage them to eat and sleep well, exercise and make time to do activities they enjoy with people they like. And remember, you need to do this too! Also recognise that your clients and their carers are on the same rollercoaster of change.
  • Align individual and organisational purpose: Your staff are likely to believe passionately in their work and the difference they make to their clients’ lives. It will be important to help staff see how they can continue to meet their purpose as their work and your organisation changes. This will help them commit to the change and assist with staff retention.
  • Build the capability of your staff: Develop a workforce plan to help you recruit and retrain staff to ensure you have the right skills to deliver.
  • Use your networks: The environment may be more competitive, but no one understands the challenges and opportunities you are facing better than your peers. Learn from each other and look for new ways to collaborate.
  • Think outside the box: Take the best of what you’ve been doing, but be prepared to think laterally to find new ways to meet your clients’ needs.
  • Celebrate milestones and achievements!

For more information on the National Disability Insurance Scheme and how service providers can position themselves for success, see our White Paper:

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TMS Consulting