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Kevin McCoy's CEDA address

Thought Plus
05 Mar 2018

Kevin McCoy speech to CEDA, 2 March 2018

After years of challenging Australian Unity’s aged care and disability business, as Group CFO, on capital management and efficiency from the relative safety of a spreadsheet, I now have the great fortune to represent over 80,000 customers as their CEO.

The first customer I met, in my role as CEO, was a 12-year-old intellectually disabled girl in a commission house in Goulburn.  I was doing the rounds with one of our great care workers.

Sitting in that environment chatting to a single mum I was awestruck by the trust they place in us and almost overwhelmed by the responsibility everyone in this room and beyond has to so many vulnerable people and communities.

Since taking on the CEO role I have made it one of my main priorities to regularly visit our aged care homes, our retirement villages, the homes of our home care clients, and the yarn-ups of our indigenous customers.

For a boy from Zimbabwe my knowledge of the rural geography of NSW and Victoria would out-do most of this room I suspect.  I have met some amazing people, heard some confronting stories, seen the loneliness and laughed a lot.

I expect the same of my leadership team, because I believe you can only truly understand your customers and respond to their needs if you meet them in their homes and in their communities.  It is hard to represent them in policy settings like this if you do not know what their challenges are.

I think it is particularly important here today to link customers to policy…

…because metaphorically speaking, when you have a large gathering such as this discussing macro policy issues, you are about as far removed from an elderly client living in outback NSW as you can get.

To kick off my continuing commitment to engaging customers in 2018, I took the old adage of ‘walking in our customers’ shoes’ to a new level…

… I slept in our customers’ bed, literally!

To get the experience of our aged care residents, I spent the night at our Campbell Place facility in Glen Waverly, Victoria.

I went through the admission experience, dined in and mingled with the other residents, while witnessing the wonderful support and care that our employees provide to our elderly customers.

As for my discussions with the residents, one of the strongest sentiments they shared with me was around the trauma associated with selling up and moving into aged care, knowing it will be the last move that they make.

I had previously only thought in terms of RADS and DAPs, but to hear and see the trauma associated with the last move in life gave me tremendous perspective…

… I was very impressed with the role our staff play beyond serving food and providing care.

I mention this because when we are looking at health and ageing statistics at a macro level, we need to keep it in mind that these numbers represent real people, not just numbers pulled from a spreadsheet.  I often say to my team that near enough is not good enough...

…we do not sell credit cards or cars - every transaction counts.

As a mutual company with a history of more than 175 years, Australian Unity works in the areas of health, wealth and living.

While we are far from being the largest player in any of these areas, we have always sought to be an advocate for change and better government policy for our members and customers.

A key area of our current public policy focus is social infrastructure.

A major piece of work we commissioned and supported in this area has been a significant report by PricewaterhouseCoopers released only last month.

The report provides evidence of supply gaps in the provision of social infrastructure required at both 2025 and 2040 and outlines a case for reform, as well as some recommendations on practical solutions to address these challenges.

I know that one of the areas that the Minister will address today is workforce.

The social infrastructure report certainly articulates the challenge ahead in this area.

With an expected 50 per cent increase in Australians aged 70 years or over from 2014 to 2025, we face a significant projected shortfall of aged carers in the coming years.

If the workforce is to grow at the same rate as the ageing population, then it needs to recruit and train an estimated 180,000 additional aged care workers by 2025 – and 400,000 by 2040.

On top of this, the aged care workforce itself is also ageing and it is already difficult to attract sufficient support for the needs of the sector today.

Of course, meeting a growing workforce demand is not exclusive to aged care.

As a large provider of disability and home care services, Australian Unity faces similar workforce challenges in that area of our business too, with workforce demand outstripping supply.

We know that the government recognises the need to address these supply issues and acknowledge its 2017-18 budget investment of $33 million over three years as part of the Boosting Local Care Workforce program.

And of course, we welcome the government’s commitment to developing an Aged Care Workforce Strategy.

We also recognise that the organisations involved in the industry – whether private, mutual, not-for-profit, or union – have a role in attracting, training and retaining new people to this workforce.

At Australian Unity, we are looking at how we can tap into potential new pools of workers – such as our culturally and linguistically diverse community – for both our aged care and disability workers.

To ensure a sustainable health and ageing system, the report recommends a restructure of the way we deliver health and aged care services.

Broadly, it challenges us to change our mindset from seeing health through the lens of illness treatment, towards viewing it through the lens of wellbeing – with a focus on preventative care, improving wellness and striving for individual outcomes.  A key principle of the NDIS I note.

Australian Unity believes the report and its recommendations will make a valuable contribution to the discussions and deliberations about health and ageing policy…

…I encourage you to download a copy of from Australian Unity’s or PWCs website, click here.

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