Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Mar-Apl 2016 Contents Having worked with Melbourne's elderly
homeless as a social worker for
three years, Bryan Lipmann founded
Wintringham Specialist Aged Care in
1989 to get the city's homeless seniors
the support he thought they deserved.
In those early years, Lipmann was the
organisation's only employee and he remains as CEO
today. Wintringham is now the largest provider of aged care
services for homeless people in the country and has a turnover of
$40 million a year.
The organisation has a staff of 600, six aged care facilities, 700
aged care packages, about 600 houses and several outreach services,
all serving Victorians who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Wintringham facilities are different from other aged care facilities,
says Lipmann, mainly because they are communities of people who
don't have family or friends and the staff who fill those roles.
The aim is that they live in their community with the same
rights, responsibilities and ownership that the rest of us do, he says.
Wintringham is a provider of housing first and foremost, says
Lipmann, into which they provide care, and it's the housing
that residents appreciate the most. Like the organisation,
Wintringham's residential facilities are named after its clients, or
"our guys" as Lipmann refers to them. "It keeps us rooted in the
vision in what we try to create," he says.
That vision is based firmly around social justice.
"We are a social justice company, an empowerment company.
These guys are empowered and so are our staff. Because there
is so little family involvement, the staff get more involved than
perhaps they would in ordinary circumstances and we encourage
that," he says.
While annual staff turnover for much of the sector is around
25 per cent, it has been just 7 per cent at Wintringham during the
past two years, Lipmann says. He attributes this to the dedicated
employees who put the needs of homeless people above their own.
"I am a great believer that staff in aged care are all pretty well
like that. It is the management style and culture within a lot of
the organisations that prevents staff from reaching their potential
and involving themselves with their clients as much as they want
to, because of issues with risk management or understaffing."
Lipmann has also been vocal in his despair that aged care
peaks and most of the sector is not interested in homelessness. He
suggests they "honour their charter" to better embrace the elderly
homeless and organisations like Wintringham, and particularly
those organisations claiming social justice philosophies.
"If aged care providers get tax concessions to deliver services
to people that the for-profits can't afford to deliver, they should
be earning that. Wintringham should never have had to get
started... Now we get referrals from the aged care industry
themselves for difficult clients ... I have given up trying to work
out why these things happen."
When Lipmann set up the organisation in 1989 under the then
Minister for Housing and Aged Care Peter Staples, he succeeded
in having the existence of premature ageing in homelessness
recognised, which meant they were able to offer services to
homeless people aged 50 and above.
Lipmann's advocacy has contributed to other major changes in
aged care policy including homeless older people being made a special
needs category under the Aged Care Act 1997, which came after
Commonwealth Government's 2008 whitepaper on homelessness.
That amendment ensured special recognition for the first time
of elderly homeless people and their ongoing inclusion in the
planning process. At the time, it was also supported by new aged
care places and capital funding for four new specialist facilities.
Lipmann describes this amendment as "huge" and it came
after more than a decade of lobbying efforts.
Lipmann says having appropriate aged care supports for
homeless elderly people is very significant and not something is
seen in other countries.
He gives credit to the Commonwealth bureaucrats for "all the
terrific support" and help to "facilitate flexibility in the way the
program is administered".
After three decades spent
housing, supporting and
advocating for homeless
older people, Bryan
Lipmann says he still
has much work to do,
writes Natasha Egan.
24 | MARCH -- APRIL 2016 | AAA
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