Aged care service contracting platform Mable has defended itself against criticism that it offers a model which operates outside the regulatory framework and should be banned.
Mable founder and CEO Peter Scutt told the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety on Monday that the online platform merely facilitates engagement between care workers and third parties who want to engage them.
“Its predominant focus is connecting people with people,” Mr Scutt said.
“So the predominant person that wants to connect with workers are the individuals themselves, supported by families or a care manager.”
More recently, the platform was opened to providers in need of staff during COVID.
Mr Scutt said rather than being a negative force in the sector, the model provided “profound benefits” to workers and consumers, as well enabling consumer directed care and making the home care dollar go further.
Fragmentation of the workforce
Counsel Assisting Peter Gray asked Mr Scutt if it was a fair criticism that the model fragments work, de‑skills professionals, places pressure on pay rates and reduces employment security.
“No, I don’t think it is,” Mr Scutt said.
“Mable as a platform isn’t an on demand or gig platform, it’s a platform that connects people and allows them to form ongoing relationships. So it’s not a piecemeal work.”
Mr Scutt said the model could overcome the challenges faced by home care providers of offering tailored services to people with diverse needs, preferences, abilities, interests and geographical locations.
Unlike many providers, Mable is able to provide flexible workers and work schedules, he said.
“They’re agreeing those schedules directly with their clients. When you put two people together, they’re actually much more flexible together in working out what works for both parties,” Mr Scutt told the commission.
Saving administrative costs
Mr Scutt also said using online platforms like Mable meant less of a care package is spent on care management, which in some cases accounted for up 35 per cent of the whole allocation.
“The current charges for package management and care management can be fairly significant,” he said.
“Part of the challenge for providers is there is a lot of work in that rostering equation to try to make sure changes to rosters have implications for the rest of the workforce and the rest of the clients.
“So when you shift some of the ability for consumers to work out the rosters and make choices directly with workers, you reduce some of those charges.”
Using Mable could reduce the administration and care management fee to as little as 15 per cent of a package, he said.
“So there’s more money for services, and then you’re able to engage those services directly from a team of your choosing and it might be at $40 an hour versus, say, a provider charging $55 or $60.
“Those two factors mean you can potentially get almost double the hours in some cases from the same funding.”
Those extra hours could drive quality of life be allowing time for relationships between worker and client rather than just focusing on the basics of domestic or clinical support.
“You can actually use that support to remain engaged with your community and maintain relationships,” Mr Scutt said.
Mr Gray also questioned Mr Scutt on charges that Mable was a “broker operating outside the regulatory framework … that takes the provision of Home Care Packages outside the aged care regulatory framework over which the Quality and Safety Commission has scrutiny”.
He pointed to a submission by CPSA policy manager Paul Versteege that “the involvement of brokers without approved provider status in administering the Home Care Package program should be banned in the interests of both consumers and care staff”.
Mr Scutt denied this.
“I don’t believe that we’re operating outside aged care regulatory framework,” he said.
“The aged care regulatory framework still imposes the responsibility for care management and meeting the quality standards on the approved home care provider who is allowing their client to engage a team of people via the Mable platform, and still has ongoing supervision and oversight and comfort around the people they’re engaging.”
Mr Scutt said in terms of consumer directed care, the model offered by Mable empowered consumers by handing them more choice and control.
“The actual benefits of our model are quite profound, I think, to consumers and workers,” he said.