aged care approvals round

Getting down to business – points to consider for a successful bid

With increasing competition in the aged care market, providers are become more and more savvy when it comes to ACAR applications and the role ACAR plays in an organisations strategic growth.

We believe that you know more about your organisation than anyone else and can best demonstrate its strengths, benefits and opportunities that you can or will provide to your client base. We are able to support you in putting your best foot forward, whether you are looking to grow or implement new services.

So what contributes to a successful application? There are a few main factors that we consider when working with our clients in preparing applications.

1. We always recommend you start with F&D – facts and data.
This may include identifying unmet needs and responding to priorities from DoHA.
2. A clearly articulated service model and how it meets the needs of your client group.
You need to demonstrate the sustainability of the model.
3. Your strengths as a provider.
4. Identify what makes your service special.
5. Demonstrated support from the community for the proposed service.

Good luck with your application!

Get ready for ACAR!

The much awaited tenders have been issued for the first of the new consumer directed ‘home care’ packages, offered over four levels of care needs, as part of the Aged Care Approvals Round (ACAR) announced over the weekend by Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler (pictured above).

Saturday’s ACAR announcement, which includes more than 14,000 new aged care places – 8,341 residential care places and 5,835 home care packages – is offered across Australia for 2012-13 as part of the Government’s $3.7 billion aged care reform plan – Living Longer Living Better.

This ACAR round, which closes on 21 December, heralds a number of changes from previous ACARs, both in the types of home care packages offered and the process of applying for both residential and home care packages.

A raft of changes

Minister for Ageing, Mark Butler, said in the lead up to this year’s allocation round, the Government had reviewed existing application forms with a view to simplifying and shortening them wherever possible in an effort to reduce red-tape for aged care providers.

“As a result of this work, the application for new residential aged care places has been almost halved in length – and some of the questions are optional for existing providers, if they relate to information the Department of Health and Ageing already holds.”

“In addition, this year a new ‘short form’ has been included for existing approved providers wishing to bring a small number of additional residential aged care places online immediately.”

A single Home Care Package application replaces the old forms for Community Aged Care Packages (CACPs) and the Extended Aged Care at Home (EACH) and EACHD (dementia) packages.

This single form will also cover the two new levels of Home Care Package – a new ‘level 1’ package for people with basic needs, and a new ‘level 3’ package for people with intermediate needs – being offered by the Government for the first time.

Importantly, all new home care packages in this year’s ACAR must be offered to consumers on a ‘consumer directed care’ (CDC) basis. From July 2015 all packages, including pre-existing packages will be consumer directed.

Mr Butler said the aim of having four levels of home care package was to provide older people with a seamless continuum of options for home care, ranging from basic care needs all the way through to low, intermediate and high-care needs; while a consumer directed care approach gave care recipients greater control.

“Consumer directed care delivers services that allow consumers and their carers to have greater control over their own lives by allowing them to make choices about the types of care they access, including who will deliver the services and when,” said Minister Butler.

Mr Butler said this first tranche of new consumer directed care Home Care packages would showcase the potential of consumer directed care to deliver better care for consumers, and test the effectiveness of the new levels of home care packages.

“Any lessons learned will be used to refine the new arrangements before they are applied across all Home Care Packages, new and pre-existing, from July 2015.”

Navigating the new ACAR

Consultants who assist approved providers in their ACAR applications have welcomed the changes to the application process, but warn that a less prescriptive approach does not mean a less rigorous or competitive selection process.

Consultant and trainer, Lorraine Poulos, says while it has been simplified, the new forms will potentially make it easier for the department to identify applicants who are not well informed and prepared.

“In previous applications, they have said, according to this section of the Act, how would you do this?

“Now the Essential Guide is much shorter and less prescriptive and there is no reference in the forms to relevant sections of the Act; so if you didn’t know your stuff – the legislation and the standards – and didn’t know your sector well, it might just weed you out,” said Ms Poulos.

“You still need to understand the legislation that underpins the service provision model and the community care common standards and also the CDC framework.

“Applicants should be well versed in the findings from the CDC pilots. For example, CDC does require a level of sophistication in being able to manage individualised budgets.”

Traps for the unwary

Another consultant who requested not to be named said while the application seems to be more streamlined, there are some elements that suggest it not as streamlined as it first appears.

“People need to make their own judgements, but looking at the new application form, you have to ask, is there a trap or two for the unwary?” he said.

“The previous one was a bit more obvious and they would even say, ‘with reference to allocation principle x, how would you do this…?’ So, in a way it is harder because there is less spoon feeding. You really need to know your Act and your allocation principles.

“You need to ask yourself, what are the department’s own requirements when they are assessing these applications? What are the allocation principles? What do they look for? What do they have to assess? And you’ll have to go and look.”
This same consultant who requested that his name be withheld, also said the removal of some specific requested information from the form was another potential trap.

“For instance there is no longer a requirement to spell out how you would address all the special needs groups in your region. So you no longer have to go through every group in your application but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to address any special needs groups in your area.

“If you look in the Essential Guide it still says addressing special needs groups is a criterion under the Act. But unless you’re careful, you might fall into the trap of thinking you don’t have to say anything about that anymore,” he said.

Another key change in this year’s application process is the removal of word limits. This consultant joked that “some people think it is like a short story competition,” while Fiona Somerville, a director of the Ideal Consultancy, said having no word limit could work either positively or negatively.

“You still need to be able to get your point across succinctly. You need to think of your audience and make your application relevant and interesting and with a compelling argument,” said Ms Somerville.

“But at the same time there is a big opportunity to sell yourself from the rooftops. Even if a community care provider hasn’t been part of the official CDC trials, but what they do is wrapped up in a big consumer focus, they will have more of a free rein than before to really sell themselves.”

Ms Somerville said her overall advice to applicants is that, while it might look easy, they might find it is deceptive.

“For instance, if you look at residential care places, if you are an existing provider the department will now use existing information to assess your level of compliance. Now, I hope this wouldn’t happen but some people might think, oh we don’t need to provide anything else; they have everything they need. But my advice is that you still need to make a competitive, compelling pitch.

Ms Somerville said at this point it was almost certainly too late for last minute applications.

“ACAR is a lot more than filling in a form. Most of our clients have been preparing for this for five or six months, working out their business plans, their strategy for growth and support. We see ACAR as the last piece of the jigsaw. There’s little use filling out an ACAR form today without having done any ground work,” Ms Somerville said.

Another observation made by the consultant who requested not to be named was that no information sessions were offered this year.

“It’s surprising that this year, when they have introduced the biggest, most dramatic changes in years – with the four levels of home care and all the CDC changes and changes to the design of the application form – that there is no national roadshow.”

Extras

The 2012-13 Extra Service Approvals Round is being run in conjunction with the 2012-13 ACAR meaning applicants have the opportunity to apply for Extra Service Status in respect of existing or new residential aged care places.

The tender also includes up to $51 million in capital grants under the Rural, Regional and Other Special Needs Building Fund and more than $150 million in Zero Real Interest Loans which the Minister says are designed to encourage greater investment in areas of need.

Minister Butler said the approvals round was part of a major expansion in home care services which will see the number of packages more than doubled over the next 10 years, from around 60,000 to around 140,000.

“There will also be an extra 65,000 residential aged care places provided over the next 10 years,” the Minister said.
Closing date for submitting applications is 2.00 pm Friday 21 December 2012. Applications must be lodged with the State or Territory Office of the Department of Health and Ageing in which the places, loans or grants are being sought.