Navigating the aged care landscape: New requirements for consumer advisory bodies

Published on 21 November 2023 (Last updated on 24 November 2023)

The specific roles and functions of both an advisory body and an aged care committee can differ vastly based on the organisation’s framework and role. [Source: Shutterstock]

In the ever-evolving landscape of aged care and healthcare in Australia, the roles of advisory bodies and board subcommittees play pivotal roles in shaping policies and ensuring the well-being of our seniors. While both entities contribute to the overarching goals of enhancing services in the aged care sector, it is crucial to understand the distinctions between them and recognise their unique importance.

Many aged care organisations are working on their readiness for Governance reforms. The creation of advisory bodies is particularly topical as this is the first time they have been regulated as part of the Governance system in a funded program.

Aged care advisory body: A beacon of expertise and advocacy

Aged Care advisory bodies serve as crucial bridges between the government, service providers, and the community. Comprising experts in gerontology, healthcare administration, quality and related fields, these bodies are designed to provide independent, informed advice to government funded providers.

Their primary goal is to enhance the quality of aged care services by offering strategic recommendations based on comprehensive research and analysis. They may be asked for critical review of decisions or assist in problem solving in both strategic and tactical methods.

One key aspect of aged care advisory bodies is their focus on advocacy. These bodies act as the voice of older Australians, championing their rights, needs, and concerns. By engaging with stakeholders at various levels, advisory bodies contribute to the formulation of policies that address the unique challenges faced by aged care recipients. This advocacy role ensures that the aged care system, particularly at provider level, remains responsive to the evolving needs of an ageing population.

Furthermore, these advisory bodies often conduct research, gather feedback from the community, and assess the effectiveness of existing policies and approaches. This information is crucial for providers in developing evidence-based strategies that lead to improvements in aged care services across the nation. 

It is crucial to remember that advisory bodies do not have the power to enact policies or decisions. They provide guidance and recommendations based on their expertise and the particular area of focus.

“One of the big issues I am seeing is organisations trying to grapple with how an advisory body is different to that of a board subcommittee. Yes they sit as part of the Governance system but advisory bodies are not decision making forums,” says Cynthia Payne, Managing Director and Founder of Anchor Excellence. 

So how many people can typically sit in an advisory body?

This entirely depends on the organisation in question. The best practice is to have no more than five members. This would ideally comprise one individual chairperson, two internal members and two external members. But this strength can change for smaller providers in the sector to a maximum of 3 members. 

Aged care board subcommittee: Operational precision at the helm

On the other hand, we have aged care board subcommittees that operate at a more granular level within aged care organisations. These subcommittees are integral parts of the broader governance structure and focus on specific aspects such as finance, quality assurance, or workforce management. Unlike advisory bodies, board subcommittees are often delegated specific accountably, including remitted decision making, to the governing board of an aged care organisation.

The primary purpose of an aged care board subcommittee is to provide specialised expertise and oversight in the areas it covers. For instance, a finance subcommittee would be responsible for scrutinising budgetary matters, ensuring financial sustainability, and advising the board on fiscal decisions. Similarly, a clinical governance subcommittee may focus on monitoring and improving the clinical care provided within the organisation.

In summary, the primary difference lies in the decision-making authority: committees have the power to make decisions and implement actions, while advisory bodies provide advice and recommendations to assist decision-makers. 

The specific roles and functions of both committees and advisory bodies can vary widely depending on the organisation’s structure and purpose.

The synergy between these two entities is vital for fostering a resilient and adaptable aged care sector. Advisory bodies inform policy direction, while board subcommittees implement these policies with precision and efficiency, ultimately enhancing the quality of care provided to Australia’s ageing population.

This article is written with inputs from Cynthia Payne.

Cynthia Payne is a recognised aged care services specialist, with more than 30 years of executive leadership, director and board experience, in both NFP and FP boards. She and four members of her team are Certified Aged Care Chairs.

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