Following are the notes that Janine Lewis, Vice-President (Village Liaison), and Anne Caine, Secretary, used for their presentation to the ACT 2023/2024 Budget Committee on Monday (17 July 2023) where they were requesting some funding to assist the ACT RVRA to more effectively carry out its mission for you.
Thanks very much to Steve Finn, a valuable member of our Committee, for providing comprehensive background notes for our presentation. Our presentation was based on his excellent notes.
ACT SELECT COMMITTEE ON THE 2023-24 BUDGET
Monday 17 July 2023
- On behalf of all members of the ACT Retirement Village Residents’ Association (ACT RVRA) we welcome the opportunity to meet with the Committee today.
INTRODUCING THE ACT RVRA
- Our organisation’s aims are to advocate for, inform, advise and represent retirement village residents. Our current membership is 165 and growing
- We recently re-established the association with vigour and enthusiasm and currently have a committee of 10 volunteers. Financially, we are starting from a very small base.
- Much of our administration needs to be established. To that end:
- We, together with COTA and Care Financial Services, have approached Minister Rattenbury for $150,000 to be equally divided among us; we will be discussing this with him next week,
- Our share of $50,000 is sought to establish basic administrative functions, such as office equivalent services, information technology and website, and member communication.
- However, we anticipate ongoing funding support will be needed (building up to $250,000 per year in the future) to operate as a viable, communicative and supportive association serving the interests of this growing sector.
- Our recent focus has been on raising awareness of our presence to retirement village residents through a very successful FORUM.
- We are now hearing of the needs of individual residents and the demands of the sector– we hear stories of management resistance and delays in response to residents’ requests, and even bullying.
- Management personnel can be inexperienced and insensitive in dealing with seniors who have invested significantly into their village homes
- In promoting our FORUM, we became aware that not all managers supported our efforts to inform residents about the Association, which we found surprising.
- All of these interactions and our response to them are time-consuming – hence our request for financial support to continue this valuable work
- We are also working hard to connect with sector groups such as various state RVRAs, the Property Council bodies representing village owners, and local like-minded organisations such as Vintage Reds, and Council on the Ageing.
CURRENT PRIORITIES: ACT RV DATA
- There is a significant lack of hard data on the actual size, composition and operations of the ACT retirement village sector that can be used:
(a) by us – to assist RV residents; and
(b) by others – to inform the management of this growing sector, for example, by government in relation to village planning, sustainable housing policies, service delivery etc;
- Our attempts to get such information from ACCESS CANBERRA met with limited success because there is no requirement for a central information repository.
- Basic information is just not readily available or held by government -though limited information is available from industry (but held for their own purposes). This situation does not in our view, lead to efficient government planning or policy development, or effective consultation with the sector.
- Missing data includes:
- number of villages (currently about 40 and growing (at least another 235 units are forecast in next 2 years*) (property council census, 2022)
- number of residents (about 4,000 and growing)
- size and type of infrastructure (2/3 bedrooms etc); co-location of residential aged care units (a growing trend), and
- services provided (including Commonwealth-funded Aged Care services) at each village.
- Systemic problems, for example, elder abuse in villages.
(Note: On 15, June 2023, in recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2023, the NSW Retirement Village Residents Association launched the ‘Ageing Without Fear’ Survey Report about psychological elder abuse in NSW retirement communities)
- We are willing to contribute to building an accurate retirement village information base by working in partnership with government and industry to collect and maintain a comprehensive database.
- The collection of this valuable data could be significantly improved by amending the Retirement Villages Act to require government registration of Retirement Villages (with appropriate requirements for provision of information) – such as already occurs in NSW and Qld.
- In conclusion: no-one seems to have a current and comprehensive overview or understanding of this significant and rapidly growing sector.
CURRENT PRIORITIES: RV OMBUDSMAN
We feel strongly that there is a need for an ACT Ombudsman (or a similar agency) for the retirement village sector to assist to resolve intractable disputes involving RV residents:
- We were pleased to have unanimous support from the Legislative Assembly to our petition for an Ombudsman. We thank all Members for their support, and the government agencies presently working on this. We endorse the National Seniors ACT budget submission that also seeks the appointment of an RV Ombudsman.
- We look forward to working with government agencies to fully address the present gaps in resident protections that arise from the power imbalance between residents and owners/management. We need an approachable Ombudsman with binding decision-making and enforcement powers. All stakeholders would benefit from an effective dispute resolution mechanism in this environment.
- Without such a body, residents will continue to be at risk, and have only ACAT from which to obtain an enforceable decision. That avenue is a protracted, adversarial and costly process, and is an intimidating experience for most.
- We applaud the Legislative Assembly’s recent move to establish a Rental Ombudsman and the Government’s commitment to thoroughly investigate existing Rental Ombudsman models across Australia. Clearly there are synergies with a RV Ombudsman.
The ACT RVRA is requesting financial assistance:
- to establish ourselves as an active and effective peak body representing residents in ACT retirement villages – which will allow us to develop effective communication with residents, management, developers and other stakeholders, for example, by setting up an Enquiries/Information service; and
- to allow us to liaise with similar bodies in other jurisdictions to understand and communicate best practice in furthering our development;
- to enable us to help contribute to an accurate and comprehensive database of information on the size, growth and the needs of the ACT retirement villages sector; and also
- to allow us to fully participate in the move to create a Retirement Village Ombudsman (or a similar body) with appropriate binding decision-making and enforcement powers – that is well-placed and well-resourced to quickly respond to all levels and complexities of unresolved resident complaints.
Thank you for your attention and we are happy to answer any questions you have.
Vice President (Village Liaison) ACT RVRA
Secretary ACT RVRA