Catholic Homes

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Catholic Homes
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Choices, harmony, community

Catholic Homes is a not-for-profit organisation that began its life over 50 years ago under the auspices of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne. In the years since, the organisation has accumulated experience and expanded their services, becoming a leading aged care services provider in Victoria. Their vision is to enable seniors to live with dignity and peace of mind. By creating and providing a wide range of choices of care and retirement living – all within a Catholic ethos – they have made their vision into a reality.

The group was founded in 1960, during a period where the government was giving grants to organisations developing independent living units intended for those who could not afford to purchase their own home. At that time, Catholic Homes – then called the Catholic Housing Guild – was formed under the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, who supplied a lot of the land through their parishes. The Catholic Housing Guild, which evolved into Catholic Homes for the Elderly, built 365 units over 15 years, mainly in the south-eastern corridor of Melbourne. Those units are still under Catholic Homes’ management. “We will continue to operate them well into the future,” says CEO Joan Donoghue.

In 1989, Catholic Homes became an incorporated association and moved into the arena of residential aged care development, building or acquiring eight aged care residences in the ensuing 30 years. In 2005 and 2007, the organisation expanded even more – introducing community care packages and retirement village developments, respectively.

Joan, who was appointed CEO of Catholic Homes in 2004, has overseen the organisation’s recent advancement. In 2005, she implemented a new strategic plan that called for a push towards growth, diversification, and service integration. Today, Catholic Homes serves over 1200 elderly people in metropolitan Melbourne as well as the outer suburbs. They do this through the management of 365 low cost independent living units, 40 retirement unit apartments, eight aged care residential facilities, 93 community care service packages, and 154 retirement village units between their four retirement villages – 40 of which are on track to be completed by the end of 2012.

Since adapting their strategic plan in the middle of the decade, Joan says the group has achieved over 60 per cent growth in services. “It’s been through organic growth, amalgamation and acquisition,” Joan says.

“Why I think we’ve been so successful, is that we have a strong vision and mission,” she adds. According to her, that mission is to provide choice and opportunity to older members of the community, which they do by providing an integrated range of care services and accommodations. They also have a proactive Board of Directors and management team and receive ample support from the Catholic Archdiocese and many key stakeholders.

Even though they are an incorporated association, Catholic Homes still enjoys close links with the Archdiocese of Melbourne, and they still provide their services within a “catholic ethos.” However, that does not mean they are exclusive, Joan clarifies. “We’re here for people of all faiths and cultures and welcome anyone to our services.”

One of the biggest challenges posed to Catholic Homes, and their ability to provide their services, is acquiring and maintaining a highly skilled workforce. They have successfully combated that challenge over the years through a number of strategies.

“I’m very passionate about training and development for all our staff, at all levels,” explains Joan. “I believe we’ve got a positive organisational culture that is in accordance with our vision, mission and values. We have a very strong workplace health and safety program, and I think the employment conditions at our facilities are good. We create and promote flexible work arrangements that can respond to and support the work-life balance requirements of a diverse and contemporary workforce.”

“I’m very happy with the employee satisfaction surveys, and also the resident satisfaction surveys that we do every two to three years,” she continues. “We act on the recommendations that come through in those, and that will sustain us into the future.”

When acquiring staff, Joan says what they are looking for is people who are qualified to provide a level of basic care – people who can relate to and care for the residents. “Older people have many healthcare and social needs, so we do need a basic level of qualification for our personal carers,” she says. She also says, however, that they do not just recruit for skills and knowledge. They are also seeking employees with compassion.

Another key aged care industry challenge that affects Catholic Homes is government regulation. In response, Catholic Homes is actively involved in seeking several key reforms for the industry at large. According to Joan, their three main goals are to improve choice, improve access, and improve the sustainability of the industry overall. “It’s difficult for older people and their families to navigate this system,” she says. “Also, workforce shortages have been exacerbated by uncompetitive and unfair wages, so those are the key reasons we’re trying to lobby the government.”

Moving forward, Joan says they have the systems and processes in place across the business to allow for massive growth. “We’re looking at 70 per cent growth over the next six years,” she says. “That growth will occur in all of our divisions – retirement villages, residential services, and community services.” That growth will occur organically, and also perhaps through mergers and acquisitions – something Catholic Homes has had success at managing in the past.

“We do have some facilities that need redevelopment, and that will be a priority as well,” Joan adds. “We want to redevelop some of the older facilities, and then take on and develop new ones.” Additionally, Catholic Homes plans on moving to other regions – not necessarily interstate, but other areas of Melbourne. At the end of this year, they will be deciding on and launching a new strategic plan. They are currently examining areas in need of their service in preparation for that review.

On top of all that, Catholic Homes will be placing more attention on the impact they have on the environment. Joan says their goal will be to minimise that impact, while still providing high quality accommodation and services for residents and community clients. “That’s going to be a key focus,” she says.

Finally, in 10 years, Joan sees Catholic Homes as having tripled in size. “We are a leading not-for-profit organisation, and in the future we’ll even be stronger,” she says. “I think we’ve got an excellent brand, we’ve got a good following, and we’ve got great stakeholders, suppliers and supporters. Because of the demographics of the aging population, there will be more and more need for our services, and we will be there to help.  Providing appropriate affordable services and accommodation to meet the diverse needs of our burgeoning ageing population is an exciting challenge that we are ready to meet.”