Aged care is an important sector, particularly in areas like New Zealand where the percentage of older people keeps growing. According to Statistics New Zealand, 14.3 percent of the population was aged 64 years and over, an increase of 2 percent since 2006. It is likely that the number has grown even higher since the last census, marking the importance of facilities and organizations in the care industry.
The New Zealand Aged Care Association (NZACA) is certainly one of the most important organizations in the area. By representing 90 percent of New Zealand’s aged residential care sector, NZACA is a highly influential peak body which supports and improves the sector in various areas. The association lobbies the government to influence policies which aim to recognize the importance of the sector, it produces research and information to relevant parties, and provides its members with a strong voice that can affect practical change.
“We are the peak body for the New Zealand aged residential care providers. They are those who offer provision of care to the elderly such as rest home, hospital, dementia, and psychogeriatric care. Some of our members only provide care, others have a retirement village aspect to their businesses as well as having a care facility attached. We represent the very small right through to the very large. When I say the very small I mean those care-only facilities whereas the very largest include very significant retirement villages as part of their core facilities”, says Simon Wallace, the CEO of NZACA.
A small but mighty team
Even though there are only five members of staff in NZACA, the team is very much invested in their work. Their voice has a strong influence in the sector as they represent the opinions and ideas of almost the entire New Zealand aged residential care sector.
“Whilst we are small, we are noble and we can get things done. We have a group of people, a board as well as the branches, who are passionate about the interests of their workforce and the elderly people. They provide outstanding care for their residents”, says Simon.
Most of the time, the association’s work speaks for itself. Across New Zealand, NZACA is known as the number one association in the sector. Its members know who to turn to when they have an issue they would like to discuss and policy makers know which people represent the wide range of residential care facilities in the region. “Our reputation precedes us”, says Simon, and it’s easy to see why. After all, the association virtually covers every single aspect of the sector, even though they work in conjunction with other organizations in some areas such as the training of the care workforce.
The benefits of being a member
Becoming a member of NZACA has a wide range of benefits. From training to communication and representation, the association’s influence is echoed throughout New Zealand. Its members are always updated in what’s happening in the sector and they also have a lot of opportunities to raise concerns and share opinions with other facilities as well as the board of NZACA. One supports the other and the association actively encourages its members to participate in the discussions as they affect the entire sector.
“The quite unique thing about us in New Zealand is that we have a branch network, we have fourteen branches around the country. So the New Zealand Aged Care Association is a two-way forum, we tell our members what’s happening in the policy space and they provide information to us to take back to the policy makers. We also offer a range of membership services as well as providing training. We only have five staff and we only exist because of the subscription that our members pay. We are a small, lean machine”, explains Simon.
At the forefront of change
As one might expect, the association is always at the forefront of current issues that affect the aged residential care sector. Right now, the biggest policy issue that they face is the Equal Pay Case. In 2012, a caregiver in the sector lodged a claim with the Employment Relations Authority which suggested that the industry’s minimum wage was far too low, particularly because it was dominated by female employees. NZACA, on behalf of the caregiver’s employer, is playing a vital role in the negotiations between the government, the workers’ unions, and the members that it represents.
After all, the influential NZACA is hugely important in all the policies and negotiations that affect its sector. For instance, the New Zealand government recently launched a new initiative that aims to refresh the national health strategy. Simon himself is a member of the expert advisory panel that’s refreshing the health strategy of older people. Through that, he provides “an industry and sector perspective to these developments” as the association does for other policies as well.
On top of that, the association is heavily involved in the review of the provision of palliative care in New Zealand as the number of such patients has increased significantly. Due to the complexities involved in residential care, the association needs to inform the government of the sector’s intricacies on a frequent basis. As Simon says it, this is a hugely important part of their work, the active interaction between the association and the government bodies responsible for the formation and application of new policies.
Aspiring for a better tomorrow
Looking into the future, the association’s goals are clear. Throughout its history, NZACA has worked to gain recognition for the importance of the sector, especially seeing that the aged population is steadily increasing over the years. Of course, policy issues like the Equal Pay Case are also hugely important for the association.
“Recognition by government of the value of the aged care sector and the workforce, particularly in terms of the Equal Pay Case. Sealing that case would be a great start. Looking at a long-term sustainable model at the time where the aging population is increasing. I’ll be happy if we can achieve those”, comments Simon.
The association’s workload looks to be as heavy as ever in the coming years. Changes in the sector, influenced by technology and official policies, provide a constant need to stay updated and involved. As they are heavily involved in every part of the sector and passionate about their work, the team of the association is always highlighting the importance of the industry for New Zealand as a whole. Judging by their previous efforts, it’s safe to say that the association’s members will at least have a strong, influential voice guiding them and the government towards a better future for everyone involve.
AT A GLANCE
WHO: New Zealand Aged Care Association
WHAT: New Zealand’s largest and most influential association of the aged residential care sector.
WHERE: Level 11, Petherick Towers, 38 – 42 Waring Taylor Street, Wellington