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The right tender

The government offers many forms of funding for aged-care services, but the process of applying can be complex and confusing. Some simple tips can help applicants head in the right direction. 

Attracting federal and/or state government funding can be the life blood that keeps your business alive.

Writing a concise and detailed tender to attain those funds is no easy task. A tender can be a time-consuming, all-encompassing and comprehensive submission that involves numerous people within the organisation and is reviewed many times.

With applications for the next Aged Care Approvals Round (ACAR) now open, aged-care providers are busily compiling and preparing the necessary information to be included in their submission.

Senator Mitch Fifield, the assistant minister for social services, announced in March that the round will continue to expand the Home Care Package program, which provides individually tailored packages of home-care services to help older Australians remain living independently in their own home. Residential aged-care places will also be made available.

The Zero Real Interest Loans program ceased with the last ACAR. To encourage greater investment in areas of need, the government will make additional funding available under the Rural, Regional and Other Special Needs Building Fund.

So, what makes a good application?

“First and foremost you need to understand the Aged Care Act,” says Lorraine Poulos, from Lorraine Poulos and Associates. “It is imperative that you understand the Act to ensure you know exactly what you are applying for and how the funding works.

“Basically, you are selling goods or services to the government, so it is a formalised process that is bound by requirements such as accountability, transparency and fairness.

“You need to ask yourself why you are applying for funding. Once you have answered those questions, you are on the right initial path.”

Lorraine Poulos and her team specialise in supporting providers of health, residential and community care in Australia. Poulos originally trained as a registered nurse and has post-graduate qualifications in health-service management and adult education. Her past roles include chief executive officer of the aged-care channel and director of aged and community care for a large multi-purpose organisation.

Poulos regularly runs ACAR tender-writing workshops, guiding organisations through the process. She covers changes in the legislative acts, guidelines, knowing your community, questions for organisations to ask themselves before they apply and common mistakes made.

“When you write an application, you need to review each question and check it against the provided guide from the funding body. Dot point your strengths and then review them later to expand into paragraphs and sentences. Identify the gaps in your answers and start to work on what you need to fit the criteria, and plan your timeline and work backwards,” Poulos says.

“You need to state clearly why you think your organisation can deliver the services: this needs to be clear to everyone reading the application.”

KinCare provides private in-home care services for people who are seeking care for themselves and/or a family member. The company has submitted many tender documents for the ACAR and believes sticking to the fundamentals of the question is the key to a good application.

“You need to clearly document your responses to the questions, with supporting examples, evidence to support your points, while truly understanding your local market,” says Therese Adami, KinCare’s chief operating officer.

“It is important that you demonstrate how your organisation can meet standards and guidelines, organisational policies and customer expectations, as well as funding and contract requirements.”

KinCare has broadened their range of services to include well-being care, which involves enabling in-home residents to maintain their quality of life. By analysing someone’s lifestyle, nutrition, safety at home, nursing needs and nutrition, the company can support individuals to lead a fulfilling life. It also ensures that any application for the ACAR is very thorough.

“We seek internal and external feedback to assist in analysing our application,” Adami says.

“Pre-application, we take the time to assess the extent to which we can deliver to the standard we strive for, and ask ourselves: can we provide the service types and experiences to meet the needs of clients and carers in a particular community, to the standard we strive for? Do we have the capacity to deliver the services with skilled and competent staff? Do we offer uniqueness in experience for the customer? How well connected are we with community networks in the region to further support our clients and their family?”

“These are all important questions which we need to answer honestly. Post application we request feedback from the ACAR assessment team and involve all internal participants and stakeholders in a formal debrief.”

Above all, KinCare believe that their answers need to focus on how your organisation and range of services can impact on the quality of life for elder Australians.

“We pride our organisation and service teams on being a safe pair of hands,” Adami says. “We are a credible, reliable and stable provider and we back that up with a proven track record.”

Feedback from the Department of Social Services and what to include in your application:

Six areas of improvement:

  • Care recipient rights
  • Consumer directed care
  • Continuity of care
  • Diversity of choice – dementia
  • Providing the appropriate level of care
  • Provision of care to people with special needs

Main reasons why organisations are not successful

  1. Your organisation does not have the infrastructure
  2. Your staff do not have the necessary skills or qualifications
  3. You have a low financial base e.g. no capital, no assets, no business continuity plans
  4. You don’t have the networks in place
  5. You haven’t demonstrated evidence-based practices
  6. Your proposal does not demonstrate value for money
  7. There is little or no evidence of innovation – no technology
  8. Your organisation does not know or understand your target group
  9. You are a high risk applicant
  10. You did not meet the selection criteria
  11. You did not answer the questions!

Source: Lorraine Poulos and Associates, based on Australian government feedback.

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