On-the-ground support for CHSP providers

Home support providers advised to seek out and get to know the well-informed support and development staff on hand in their region to assist.

Home support providers should seek out and get to know the well-informed support and development staff on hand in their region to assist, a sector support lead tells Community Care Review.

Sector Support and Development is a sub-program of the Commonwealth Home Support Program. SSD activities aim to support CHSP providers to uplift their capability ahead of aged care reforms.

Kim McLean

The SSD network provides a great resource for providers, said Kim McLean – ageing coordinator at Orange City Council, and sector support and development officer for the Central-West region of New South Wales.

“Get to know and utilise the strengths of your regional sector support and development officer because they are there on the ground to help CHSP providers,” Ms McLean told CCR. “They have access nation-wide through the SSD network and an avenue for multi-directional communication.”

However, providers may be currently challenged with finding the SSDO in their region because the details are not published anywhere. At the same time, the Department of Health and Aged Care is unable to provide SSD officers with the contact details of CHSP service providers due to confidentiality. SSD providers can use the ‘Find a provider’ tool on My Aged Care to find CHSP services in their catchment and proactively contact them, said Ms McLean.

Positively, a directory of nation-wide SSDOs is being developed to give to CHSP services so they know who to contact, she said.

The department has confirmed it has commenced working with SSD providers to collect their contact information and consent to share this information through a proposed online service directory.

“The proposed online service directory would be available to all Commonwealth Home Support Programme providers following the next CHSP contract extension from 1 July 2024,” a spokesperson for the department told CCR.

SSDOs also have access to an online community of practice platform created by the department that supports communications between it and SSDs across Australia. While not open to service providers, the platform aims to benefit CHSP services.

“The Community of Practice houses resource library catalogues that have been developed by SSD members of national workgroups aligned to key focus areas of the business reforms, meeting notices and minutes, up-coming events and general posts, which are all moderated and managed by a nominated group of SSD moderators,” Ms McLean said.

“It provides knowledge sharing and consistent messaging for SSDOs when they are working with service providers to support their needs.”

The recent national conference of the Aged & Community Care Providers Association also provided an opportunity for Ms McLean to catch up in person with her SSD colleagues from their respective organisations across Australia. 

“From the various presentations we attended, we have pooled information to take ideas back to our national workgroups and state meetings. From here, we can combine effort and strength on projects to support each other whether regional or metropolitan. 

“Because of the close working relationship between regional and metropolitan SSDs in sharing information and co-hosting forums and webinars, conversations are shared and relationships built between participants for common understanding of issues providers are facing in other regions, especially with the reforms.”

Regional challenges

At the local level – and like a number of providers in the community services space – Orange City Council’s key issue is workforce, said Ms McLean. That includes both the paid and volunteer workforce. 

“In this case council relies on its point of difference as an employer of choice, promoting cultural diversity and inclusion, professional development and career path. Our volunteers are a key element of our CHSP service delivery yet are getting older – we have one volunteer with 60 years of service delivering meals – and are finding it harder to attract new volunteers,” she told CCR.

“Our efforts are spread across engaging retirees, workplace employees for lunch break duties and from the educational sector.”

Challenges aside, every day feels like a win with the CHSP program because it makes such a difference to seniors in the community, said Ms McLean.

“Whether it be a meal home delivered, transport to lunch, community garden, or women’s shed, shopping escort, men’s or Aboriginal Elders outings, it makes a huge difference in the lives of older Australians and shows the true value of the CHSP program in supporting an ageing population and Australia’s care economy.”

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