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Structural review of Abbeyfield in Australia
Wednesday, 26 August, 2015    Author: Chris Reside

Since the successful Abbeyfield International and Abbeyfield National Conferences in Melbourne in February 2015, the Abbeyfield Australia Board has been reviewing its national organisational structure and business model. This is a timely ‘root and branch’ review and has allowed the Board to freely and objectively interrogate our current community based model in today’s more demanding community housing and aged care environments.

The overarching purpose of the structural review is to ensure that Abbeyfield in Australia is well placed to remain an active and relevant player in the community housing and aged care sectors.

As part of its structural review the Board has considered:

1) the level and types of services Abbeyfield Australia is currently able to provide to Local Societies;

2) the increasing regulatory obligations on the national body and Local Societies (in both the community housing and aged care sectors);

3) reports from some Local Societies that the traditional 10 resident Abbeyfield House ‘assisted living’ model is no longer viable without change;

4) increased demands on our small Abbeyfield Australia national office;

5) reports that some local societies require assistance to comply with their respective local Constitutions / Rules of Association;

6) an absence of succession planning by some Abbeyfield Committees of Management, matched against the national trend of declining volunteering across the entire Not-For-Profit sector;

7) financial restraints on both local societies and the national body;

8) increasing resident and family expectations of community housing, matched with our aging housing stock and greater competition from other NFP and private sector housing / aged care providers; and

9) the impact of the Federal Government’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP).

The last structural review of the national Abbeyfield organisation was in 1998 when the previous various State based Abbeyfield Societies were merged into one single national body, now known as Abbeyfield Australia Ltd. The structure of the local societies themselves has remained unchanged since the first local society was formed in 1981.

Two consultants’ reports were commissioned by the Board to give it an independent view of its operations. One by a management consultant who reviewed the broad operations of the organisation, the other by a governance specialist who reviewed the Constitutions and incorporation status of most local societies.

The management consultant’s report on our national operations highlighted that the structure of the organisation is to ‘enable’ the Local Societies to operate the various houses. However, with the advent of national Community Housing registration, further changes in the aged care space, increasingly complex accounting and reporting standards, our small national office is now taking an ever increasing involvement in the daily management of houses.

The governance consultant’s report emphasised the need for all local societies to have current documentation, adhere to the requirements of their respective Associations Incorporation Act and the requirements of the ACNC. Unfortunately, according to the consultant’s report, a number of local societies are not fully complying with many of these requirements.

In looking at this changing scene the Board a series of informal Board workshops to explore the issues and options available. Once the Board has settled on a range of preferred reforms, it will prepare a ‘Structural review discussion paper’ for full consultation with stakeholders.

The Board understands the need and benefits of fully engaging all our local societies, members and external stakeholders in this structural review and so will keep everyone briefed on the consultation process.

The structural review will also be the focus of the biennial Abbeyfield Australia State Conferences 2016 to be held in Melbourne, Canberra and Ross (Tasmania) during February – April 2016. Based on the outcomes of that engagement / consultation, the Board will move to implement any structural reforms later in 2016 and 2017.

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