This couple is changing the face of the turbulent aged care industry in Australia
Martin and Sarah Warner have combined a lucrative business model with a passion for care and compassion to create something truly special. The pair’s business, Home Instead Senior Care, which they began in 2004, now has a national network of 25 independently owned and operated offices in Australia with over 1,600 employees.
Given Australia’s ageing population, in-home care is on the rise with nursing homes considered too expensive to meet the needs of seniors who are living longer than ever before. According to the government, the number of Australians aged 65 years or over is expected to increase from 3.6 million in 2015 to 6.2 million in just twenty years.
Clearly, the traditional nursing home option is becoming less and less feasible for families who may have to support their parents and grandparents for decades. It states in the Operations of the Aged Care Act report that in 2014–15, 68 per cent of Australians aged 65 years and over lived at home without accessing government subsidised aged care services, 25 per cent accessed some form of support or care at home, while only 7 per cent accessed residential aged care, meaning that in-home care is booming.
Martin says, “Our research shows that 90 per cent of seniors want to continue to live in their own homes. In-home care focuses on building the individual’s strengths and providing assistance to ultimately help them maintain their independence and overall wellbeing. In-home care allows people to continue to make valuable contributions to their community and feel a sense of purpose.”
What is the story behind Home Instead?
Martin started his career in hospitality and ran a chain of restaurants in London before moving to Australia in 1986. He was a key player in establishing Pizza Hut’s home delivery in Sydney during his time working at Pepsico and moved into franchising with the company for overseas markets. His next step was moving into retail franchising as the Director of Lenards before beginning his own franchise consulting business. During that time, Martin’s wife Sarah was running her own consultancy in the aged care sector. When they came upon the opportunity to launch Home Instead Senior Care (which was founded in Nebraska in 1994 by Paul and Lori Hogan) in Australia, they jumped on it.
“We immediately felt it was for us. The required skill sets matched our background to a tee and importantly, we were caring for my disabled mother so we completely understood the importance of keeping seniors independent and safe in their own home. After meeting with the founders of the Home Instead brand in the US, it became clear to us that youcan run a professional business while still demonstrating values of compassion, understanding and trust on a daily basis – something that was extremely important to us,” says Martin.
There are now 32 Home Instead franchises covering all mainland states. Martin revealed that they are now seeking to gain coverage in territories and Tasmania.
“We have advocated for changes to the government system to enable seniors to have greater control and choice over the government services they receive and this milestone will have been achieved on March 1st 2017. We expect these changes to open up the market for seniors and provide greater opportunities for us to deliver quality care. We expect our opportunity to grow to around 80 franchises in the next 10 years.”
Martin’s venture into the aged care industry has not been without its challenges. He notes that initially many players in the industry had an ideological view that all aged care services should be free and 100 per cent government funded. “We were real outsiders to the industry and a private in-home care provider entering the market was a shock to many. Now, 10 years on and 25 offices later, demand for our quality, consumer-lead service offering speaks for itself,” says Martin.
The aged care industry has been going through an upheaval recently with government policy changes allowing seniors who receive government funded home care the freedom to choose their service provider.
Martin himself has been a strong proponent in bringing about this change in policy for over a decade. “Under the reforms, all home care providers need to be 100 per cent transparent and accountable to their clients. This will lead to ongoing consolidation with the less efficient organisations leaving the industry. Simply put, seniors will control the aged care industry and those providers who aren’t up to scratch won’t survive,” he says
What is Home Instead doing differently?
“The dynamics of the industry are unusual,” Martin told Anthill. “It is dominated by government funded not for profit and charity organisations who have tendered for delivery of government services. Yet these predominantly state based organisations also ask us to deliver services on their behalf when they cannot fulfill them.”
“However, most of them do not deliver services outside of the government sector, and this is where Home Instead Senior Care has taken the lead because there is a large latent demand for services to people who want greater control of their lives and don’t want, or are unable to receive government services. There are a number of independent companies and some franchises which have entered the market but there are some significant differences.
“Home Instead Senior Care is a national provider specialising non-medical care to seniors whereas most organisations operate in multiple market segments, e.g. nursing, child care, disability care and so on.
“Secondly, we have taken the lead in this industry and have invested heavily to provide solutions to the challenges of an ageing population through our public education resources which we distribute, and can be found on our website. These resources go to the heart of addressing the challenges facing seniors and their loved ones.
“Thirdly, we have a comprehensive CAREGiver training program which we have written which all our CAREGivers must complete and which enables them to obtain a national Cert3 qualification in Home Instead Senior Care and Community Care. This in-house program concept is not common practice in the industry.”