Aged care industry peak Leading Age Services Australia is in talks with its disability sector counterpart around the interface between NDIS Services and the aged care sector.
LASA State Manager for SA/NT Rosetta Rosa said LASA and National Disability Services (NDS) are holding discussions as LASA weighs the establishment of a national aged care and disability working group.
Ms Rosa says many LASA members are straddling both sectors and assessing how to operationalise ageing and disability services.
“We’re wanting to establish a national group of members that are both in the disability and in aged care,” Rosetta Rosa told Community Care Review on the sidelines of LASA’s annual conference last week.
“The purpose of the advisory group is to assist us to identify what are the key issues from a policy, but also from an operational point of view.”
The working group would facilitate an interface between aged and disability care and form “a fairly heavy backbone” of LASA’s policy, Ms Rosa said.
NDS acting CEO David Moody said the disability peak had no plans to merge with any other organisation but was open to collaboration.
“We are … always open to discuss joint initiatives with other peak bodies that would benefit our members and the people they support,” Mr Moody told Community Care Review.
As National Head of Aged Care at consultants Grant Thornton, Darrell Price has been providing advice to the aged care sector in relation to the royal commission. He predicts an increasing integration between both sectors.
Mr Price says disability providers are expressing an interest in investing in the aged care sector, and aged providers are looking at opportunities in disability, including specialist accommodation.
“From my perspective the royal commission’s driving an interest in convergence of services across disability and aged care, and it’s probably happening more quickly than I thought,” he said.
He says workforce capabilities are easily transportable between the two sectors, and closer divergence would optimise resources and funding.
“The recognition that this will come together is understood by providers, but I don’t think it’s very well understood by the NDIS or the government,” he told Community Care Review. “And that’s probably a risk factor for all of us to think about.”
Mr Price says shortfalls and fragmentation within both sectors are opening market opportunities, and it is inevitable that LASA will find itself dragged into the NDIS.
“I think the schemes will remain separate, but providers will work out a way to utilise resources across both schemes, given the similarities in capability,” he said.
Mr Price described a national advisory body to facilitate integration as “a great idea”, saying it would give industry stakeholders a voice.
“The only way this will change is if providers get together on the issues between the NDIS and aged care with a strong voice and actually confront government,” he said.
He said government wasn’t doing enough to develop pathways for the relocation of NDIS services across to aged care and the other way around, partly because of an inherent silo-mentality and also as a consequence of different tiers of government looking after different areas and providing different “funding bricks”.
Lack of political appetite
Associate Professor Michael Murray, the former chief clinical adviser to the Aged Care Quality and Safety City commission also said there was an increasing divergence of the aged and disability sectors.
However, both industry and consumers were “struggling” under two different regimes and he questioned the political will for change.
“You might think we’re going to pull these together but my experience tells me not a hope and no political appetite,” he told the conference. “So not in my lifetime. But good luck.”
Delegates at the conference also expressed concern about managing separate workforces with different awards and pay disparities between aged care and disability, and how boards were meant to meet governance requirements in a “cross-over” environment.
Ms Rosa acknowledged there would continue to be numerous “blockers” to divergence, including from funding bodies, government and even the community.
“There’s this concept that disability and aged care are very different so even the narrative needs to start to sort of change to break those barriers,” she said.
She said she will be writing to LASA members to assess support for the establishment of an advisory group for national aged care and disability.