Not so Aboriginal Home Care?

26 November 2014 | Posted In: #123 Summer 2014/15, Ageing, Disability Issues, Health Services, Planning for People and Social Issues,

The proposed sale of Aboriginal Home Care has raised concerns within the Aboriginal community such as those below from an Aboriginal community worker who wishes to remain anonymous.

AHC house

Aboriginal Home Care is the largest provider of Home and Community Care services to Aboriginal people in NSW and is part of the government run Home Care Service of NSW. It provides help to Aboriginal people with a disability and older Aboriginal people to help them remain independent in their own home. It also provides respite support to the carers of Aboriginal people.

On 22 September 2014 Minister for Ageing and Minister for Disability Services John Ajaka announced that as part of the NDIS transition, where the federal government takes over responsibility for disability services, “we’re about to start the process of transitioning the Home Care Service of NSW into the non-government sector”. The sale is expected to be completed by mid-2015. Aboriginal Home Care is to be part of the proposed sale.

The announcement has raised concerns within the Aboriginal community about how clients especially in remote communities will be handled in a privatised for profit service. The comments below set out some of the concerns that have been raised from within and outside the community.

I am writing to express my concerns regarding a recent Media Release made by the Minister for Ageing and Minister for Disability Services John Ajaka, regarding the sale of NSW Home Care, including Aboriginal Home Care.

The Aboriginal community, including current Aboriginal Home Care clients and community sector employees are heavily disparaging of the plan to sell the largest home and community care service provider to a multi-national for profit provider, particularly given that not for profit organisations will not have a fair chance in the tendering process.

The state government has clearly stated that it want to maximise its profit from the sale. This will mean that smaller Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal service providers will not be given the opportunity to expand their services to their local communities as they will not be in the financial position to compete with the large for profit organisations.

Currently Home Care is one of the largest employers of Aboriginal Staff in NSW, with 8 Aboriginal Home Care Offices throughout NSW providing assistance to rural and remote areas as well as suburban areas.

Selling Home Care to a multi-national provider may result in  loss of employment for Aboriginal staff which jeopardises what the Aboriginal community has fought for over the years.

It also works against the Closing the Gap Policy. In 2008, COAG agreed to six ambitious targets to address the disadvantage faced by Indigenous Australians in life expectancy, child mortality, education and employment.

The Closing the Gap target for employment states it will halve the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and other Australians by 2018. Selling off Aboriginal Home Care to a multi-national company jeopardises the government’s agreement in attempting to reduce the unemployment rate of Aboriginal people. The sale of Aboriginal Home Care will possibly increase the unemployment rate for Aboriginal people and for the nation as we predict Aboriginal people will no longer access services if they are not provided by Aboriginal workers who can provide culturally safe and appropriate services.

“Aboriginal pensioners and low income clients are not required to pay for domestic assistance, respite or personal care services provided by Aboriginal Home Care.” This is a real concern for the organisation that purchases Aboriginal Home Care.

If this organisation is a multi-national for profit provider it will want to maximise its profit. There is no known Aboriginal home care service provider that seeks to make a profit. It is about providing a service to their own people so they can continue to live in the community and not have to move into a residential institution like setting.

We are particularly concerned that if Aboriginal people cease accessing home care services there will be more admissions to hospital and premature admittance to residential care which will cost the government more money in the long term.

Aboriginal service provision is unique, requiring specialist Aboriginal staff to be employed throughout, not only direct care workers but also in management and senior management roles to ensure a quality service for Aboriginal elders and people with a disability.

The only way to do this is to keep Aboriginal Home Care as a separate entity providing assurance to the Aboriginal community that service provision will remain culturally appropriate and safe, run by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people.