Councils sell aged care facilities but keep planning role

January 30, 2017

Local government agencies throughout Australia are asking if aged care is their core business, writes Cam Ansell.

While many community projects for older people originated from municipalities, the reform process is creating a highly competitive and attractive market for the private sector. Given the broad set of responsibilities already managed by local government, many are concerned that these services create a disproportionate burden and draw on ratepayer resources. If the private sector can do it better and more efficiently, why continue?

Over the past 12 months, our firm has supported the City of West Torrens in South Australia with their nursing home divestment, and similar processes are now taking place in the Cities of Bayswater and Canning in Western Australia. In October, the Port Augusta City Council in South Australia announced the sale of its two nursing homes by public tender.

All of these organisations did some serious soul searching and concluded that the market had changed and so should their role. Under the Living Longer, Living Better reforms introduced in 2012, consumers will be in a position to demand more responsive, cost effective and innovative services.

In this environment, organisations that are created to deliver on this objective will be better placed than those which must manage a myriad of services. As a result, we can expect the representation of local government in the aged care sector to decline further in future years.

However, the role of local government in planning facilitation is absolutely critical. The Georges River Council in New South Wales recognised the importance of promoting aged care development in their communities. They have preserved a prime piece of real estate in Oatley for the provision of aged care services. The City of Swan in Western Australia has made similar allocations, recognising the need for greater services levels in their municipality.

Our consultation with aged care and retirement village operators revealed a high level of frustration in relation to the planning approval process for new and expanded developments. The importance placed on seniors’ accommodation and aged care services varies substantially between local government agencies and planning authorities.

Across Australia, seniors’ housing and aged care projects have been stalled or terminated because of misunderstanding and prejudices among community members. While some of this sentiment can be attributed to a natural fear of ageing, others misconceive that the expansion of seniors’ accommodation results in an influx of ageing people in their community.

In fact, the opposite is true. The provision of age appropriate accommodation makes larger homes available for young families, while helping the elderly remain in their own community. 

 

Read more at http://www.governmentnews.com.au/2017/01/councils-sell-aged-care-facilities-keep-planning-role/

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