To get some insight into this question, I asked my husband Craig for some feedback about his organisation’s experience of the transition phase so far – he manages a large Rural Home Care and Multi-Purpose Service in far northeast Victoria. His service also participated in the pilot testing of the draft Standards last year, so they have already had to consider how they might address the ‘new’ Standards operationally.
I have added some of the best information he provided into this blog post, along with our own insights.
What is the main difference for services between the old and new Standards?
A key aspect of the new Standards is looking at the requirements from the consumer’s perspective. It’s important that everyone in the organisation understands and accepts that the consumer is now in the ‘box seat’.
What changes has your service made that will help you meet the new Standards?
In Craig’s words: “The ‘customer focus’ has become a central part of our purpose.”
“The standards are moving us away from simply ‘having policies in place’, to demonstrating how what we do matters. For example, in the past, services may have ticked the box that said they had policies and procedures in place. Now there is more focus on how those policies and procedures are being implemented with consumers.”
It’s not just about preparing for a Quality Review every three years – it’s about being ready at any time.
Quality care and a well-run service should be the ‘norm’. The new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission are not going to give forewarning of a review visit to services that provide residential care.
In this day and age, people expect a consistent, safe and responsive service that is focused on meeting their needs, their goals and working with them. This is true for all providers, both residential and community care.
How should we inform consumers of the new Standards?
Currently, all the consumer sees is the service that’s delivered to them, however, they need to understand that there are standards that underpin the support they receive – which ensures they are getting a quality service.
Good communication, including regular home visits, is an important start. Ensure that support staff and other people within the organisation understand the underpinning concepts of the Standards and follow this up with appropriate resources that highlight the new Standards. These steps should be a part of an organisation’s communication plan going forward.
How will the new Standards impact the accountability and transparency of your service and assist people to speak up?
The consumer has the right to voice any concerns or complaints they have. They have the right to be engaged in a proactive way to ensure the service is meeting their needs – if they are not happy, they can express this and see action taken.
Services need to close the loop, organisations need to demonstrate that the service they say they are delivering, is being delivered and is to an expected standard.
In Craig’s words: “As a manager, I follow up with clients directly and ensure that the service is being delivered and that the quality of the service they are getting is ‘right for them’. I am reviewing complaints and feedback as a more ‘real time’ process.”
Providers need to be empowering consumers and educating them to speak up. Reassure them that their services are not going to be taken away from them if they complain.
People have the right to express their views about their service delivery and a right to complain and have something positive done about it. They should be encouraged to report on what is working well and whether they are happy with their service. Make sure your staff are aware of any positive feedback – they love to know that what they do makes a difference.
Some of the ways clients can be made aware of the process and are supported to provide feedback are:
- A client handbook – ensure it is easy to read for your client group, that it includes the current process and information on how to make a complaint, how to provide feedback and what the internal and external points of contact are, e.g. Service Management, Aged Care Advocate and the Australian Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.
- Feedback forms – can can be completed anonymously if that is a preference.
- Formal Surveys – conducted annually, or more often where appropriate. Community Volunteers are a great way to get honest feedback from clients if they are available as they are often viewed as an unbiased third party and build strong and open communication pathways with the people they support.
- Support workers (and management) accepting verbal feedback if this is the preferred option; documenting and investigating as required. Ensure the loop is closed by providing feedback to the person and their carer about the outcome of the complaint and identifying where changes can also be applied more broadly to the service.
- Having an advisory group from the client/carer base that are engaged in raising issues and being an active participant in the co-design and improvement of services. This doesn’t have to be formal – it could be a morning tea or a BBQ once every 2-3 months. Sometimes people feel more comfortable speaking up when they are part of a group.
- Having the Manager, or Coordinator go out and speak with clients and view the services that are being provided.
How will the new Standards impact the approach to managing the service?
Many organisations are operating a range of aged and disability programs with different funding streams and Standards. They therefore have had to respond to a number of different Standards and the accompanying review processes – which can be time-consuming and administratively intensive.
In Craig’s words: “Sometimes what the regulatory and ‘program’ frameworks miss, is the focus on the service. For example, personal care and showering support should be provided to the same level of quality, whether the client is CHSP, HCP, DVA, or an NDIS participant.”
The key takeaway for providers here is that ultimately, policies and procedures should support service provision, not just meet program compliance.
What can you do to prepare your organisation for the introduction of the new Standards and future Quality Reviews?
Craig’s advice: “When preparing for the pilot testing last year, we used case studies to help demonstrate how we had applied good practice. For example, to show our continuous quality improvement, we highlighted a co-design activity where we engaged with our local aged care advocacy group to consult with clients and carers regarding changes to our rostering of domestic assistance. The feedback from the consumers through the group was used to shape the information provided to our clients, advising them of how the changes would work. This case study was able to be used to demonstrate commitment to meeting the relevant Standards to the Agency.”
Case studies are a great way of demonstrating how you meet a number of Standards. They are a narrative and, as such, provide greater insight into the details of how you support the consumer outcomes rather than just ticking off the boxes that Craig alluded to earlier.
What case studies could you use to capture your organisation’s commitment to meeting the Standards?
Over the next few weeks, we will be investigating each of the Standards and sharing with you a case study that may relate to meeting that Standard in a rural and remote context.
On that note, I’ll wrap this up. I hope you have enjoyed this insight. Next week, we start our focus on each individual Standard, starting with number one: ‘Consumer Dignity and Choice’ – unravelling what this means for the ‘person’ and the requirements that providers need to be able to demonstrate.
This blog post is part of a series on the New Aged Care Standards, where we investigate how and why they were developed and take an in depth look at each of the Standards to give you ideas for implementing these effectively within your organisation. If this is of relevance to you and you’re not signed up for our short email alerts, fill in the quick form at the right of the page and we will let you know when the next post is released. We also send a monthly round up of blog posts and videos.
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