Current & Recent Activities

Retirement Living Council Code of Conduct

On 14 December 2018 the national peak bodies representing retirement living – the Retirement Living Council (RLC) and Leading Aged Services Australia (LASA) – published their “Retirement Living Code of Conduct” following a period of consultation. To read the Code Click Here.

RRVV emailed around 1,300 members seeking comment on the published Code. Thirty-eight members responded.  Five said they were unable to comment for various reasons.  The remaining thirty-three returned comments ranging in length from a couple of sentences through to four tightly typed pages in length.

Eight respondents indicated either directly or indirectly that the December version of the code was a significant improvement over the June version.

Sixteen respondents commented directly on whether the Code was worthwhile.  Two gave it an unqualified thumbs-up, and three offered comments suggesting it would be satisfactory with minor revision. Fourteen respondents gave the code unqualified thumbs down, and a further eight made comments indicating they found it unsatisfactory.

The main driver of the negative responses was a perception (expressed by fifteen respondents) that the Code had too few provisions that will, either directly or indirectly, have a significant impact on poor operator conduct or would exclude people unfit to play a role in the management of a retirement village.  Furthermore, five of the respondents pointed out the Code sponsors only have access to 50% of the sector so even if the code did have adequately effective provisions, it would still only have a limited impact.

Fifteen respondents – either directly or by rejecting operator self-regulation – indicated a preference for a legislated solution to the problem of poor operator conduct.  Seven said explicitly that they believed an ombudsman would do more to improve operator conduct than the Code.

Thirteen respondents reported dissatisfaction with the fact that the Code Administrator is not independent of the peak bodies given the responsibility for breach investigation, audit and sanctions.

One of the Codes objectives is to promote trust and confidence in the sector.  It is ironic then that eight respondents found cause in the Code to mistrust the motives of the peak bodies.

Respondents made a variety of other comments almost all of which add to the negative sentiments outlined above.

The small number of respondents means that we cannot assume that the results presented above are representative of RRVV members.  Nevertheless, the results are such that we cannot endorse the Code at this stage.  If you have a view on whether RRVV should endorse the Code, please let us know by taking part in the following poll. [The member number is for authentication purposes only and the poll is anonymous].


Does the published version of the 'Retirement Living Code of Conduct' adequately address your concerns?

(Click Here for a copy of the Code)

56 votes
Vote

For a copy of RRVV’s letter to the peak bodies regarding last June’s consultation draft, Click Here.


Australian Retirement Village Accreditation Scheme

In February 2019 the Retirement Living Council and Leading Age Services Australia published their draft Retirement Village Accreditation Scheme. The purpose of the scheme is to certify the quality of village services and operational processes. RLC and LASA are inviting comments on the draft document from village residents and the retirement village industry.

Comments can be sent by email to retirementliving@propertycouncil.com.au or mailed to:

Retirement Living Accreditation
Property Council of Australia
Level 7, 136 Exhibition St
Melbourne VIC 3000

by Friday 12 April 2019.

RRVV encourages members to read the draft scheme and send in their comments. In the meantime, as mentioned in the March 2019 edition of our Newsletter, the RRVV president has written the following letter to the chairman of the committee responsible for the  draft scheme, setting out RRVV’s views and recommendations:

[Letter begins]

Please see the attached document, RRVV recommended objectives for ARVAS”.  In developing these recommendations, RRVV relied heavily on contributions from seven of our members we recognise as opinion leaders and having relevant experience. 

These opinion leaders expressed a variety of views and raised a wide range of questions in addition to proposing specific objectives.  There were some clear themes in their additional contributions.  

Resident engagement   

Resident engagement is perhaps the most contentious of the themes.  The contributors observed that the peak bodies and RRVV seem to have quite different views.   Please see the attached document Good practice for resident engagement in the development and ongoing review of retirement living accreditation scheme”.

RRVV’s views have their origin in the conviction that retirement village residents are stakeholders in the businesses of the operators of their villages and in the villages they live in, and that stakeholder engagement is good for business. 

Residents qualify as stakeholders because:

  • In most cases, they contribute the capital employed in their villages
  • They are customers of their village’s operator
  • Their village is their home giving them a powerful emotional stake in it its facilities and operations.

Several of the contributors noted that the Retirement Living Code of Conduct seemed to exhibit a confused understanding on the part of the peak bodies as to who the stakeholders are.  There is one reference indicating residents are stakeholders but numerous examples of the expression “residents and stakeholders” suggesting that residents are not.  The contributors suggest amending “residents and stakeholders” to read “residents and other stakeholders”.  I have a hunch the other stakeholders would see this as a slight.   They should not be surprised that resident opinion leaders see “residents and stakeholders” as a slight.

RRVV is currently in the final stages of negotiating its 2019 partnership agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria.  This agreement recognises RRVV’s stakeholder status, details the nature of the relationship, goals, an engagement program largely based on roundtable meetings and the scope of ad hoc interactions.   RRVV proposes that the ARVAS committee consider a similar agreement with RRVV.    This idea is not new. Some years ago Mary Wood, the then RLC Executive Director, proposed a similar agreement between the RLC and all six residents’ associations, but the final document contained motherhood statements rather than anything practical.  It was quickly forgotten.  

Recognise that retirement villages are unique

 Both Lifemark and IRCAS appear to be derivatives of other schemes rather than schemes tailor made to the unique requirements of retirement living.  Accordingly, RRVV recommends rejecting Lifemark and IRCAS as models for ARVAS. 

Focus on known areas of underperformance 

Lifemark has 5 categories, 26 standards and 87 pieces of evidence.  IRCAS has 4 categories, 10 standards, 22 criteria and 75 indicators.  How relevant is all of this to residents?  If the complaints our members bring to our attention are any guide, neither Lifemark nor IRCAS covers the quality issues of greatest importance to residents.  Are the schemes too broad to be effective?  RRVV believes they probably are.

RRVV members with relevant experience suggest that Australian businesses do not make full use of the information contributed by customers who complain.  Owners and operators of retirement villages are no exception.  Accordingly, RRVV recommends:

  • Basing at least a third of the standards on residents’ complaints
  • Making complaints analysis one of the main drivers of continuous improvement under the scheme

Both the Lifemark and IRCAS standards documents (particularly IRCAS) have something of the flavour of a management primer.    RRVV believes that radically improved management training as a prerequisite for accreditation would allow the scheme to focus more directly on performance and responsiveness to residents.

Introducing and maintaining the scheme at the village level

 Some of our opinion leaders reported that their villages achieved accreditation without any resident involvement and that there has been no resident involvement in any review of scheme effectiveness in their villages (if there was such a review).   RRVV acknowledges that not all villages have residents willing and able to participate in the process of achieving accreditation.  Nevertheless, accreditation provides an opportunity for management and willing residents (not just residents’ committee members) to work and learn together.

Village service levels vary across time reflecting the available funding, the changing needs and wants of residents and the changing business and social environments in which villages operate.  RRVV believes that ARVAS must recognise this variability and guarantee residents the opportunity to shape changes in service levels.

Facilities rating

 Some of our opinion leaders noted that prospective residents searching for a retirement village do not have access to independent information on village facilities.  They propose something like the star system used for hotels and motels.

Overlapping accreditation schemes

 A couple of our contributors queried the wisdom of covering areas covered by other accreditation schemes.  Take food safety as an example. Both contributors pointed out their municipal council runs a food safety scheme that includes regular audits by the local food safety inspector.  

RRVV remains keen to meet with you and your committee.

Lawrie Robertson, President, Residents of Retirement Villages Victoria

[End of Letter]


Online Retirement Village Cost Calculator

Macquarie University has made available an online retirement village calculator to enable retirees to estimate and compare the costs of moving into a retirement village.

The calculator, developed by Associate Professor Tim Kyng of the Faculty of Business & Economics, estimates the relative costs of different retirement village contracts – allowing potential residents to compare contracts and their features.

Professor Kyng developed the calculator after having his own frustrating experience while assisting his mother in choosing between retirement villages.

The retirement village calculator project was funded by a grant from Financial Literacy Australia.

To find out more, click on the button:

Retirement Village Cost Calculator


Electricity Supplies in Retirement Villages

Thank you to those members who told us about their views and experiences of their electricity suppliers, in response to RRVV’s request. This information was sought to provide input to a number of consultation meetings held with the Essential Services Commission during 2018, regarding the regulation of electricity sellers in embedded networks in retirement villages, apartment buildings, caravan parks, etc. Members’ responses indicate that about half the retirement village residents in Victoria are supplied with electricity by village operators via so-called “embedded networks”.

The commission recently introduced new legislation to ensure that village residents and other customers supplied via embedded networks have similar protections to other energy consumers. The new rules require village operators who sell electricity to residents to:

  • make sure they get a resident’s consent to an electricity selling arrangement
  • provide a separate bill with specific details to each resident
  • ensure that information provided to residents is clear
  • offer assistance to residents who have difficulty paying electricity bills
  • follow rules for disconnecting residents including those with life support equipment.

The commission has published a fact sheet which you can download: Information for Customers Living in Retirement Villages. RRVV advises members who are supplied with electricity by their village operator  – via an ‘embedded network’ – to check with their manager that the village is registered with the Essential Services Commission for the supply and sale of electricity.

On the important subject of electricity prices, research conducted by RRVV indicates that  residents in villages with embedded networks pay on average the same rate per kWh as retail customers in the same area but less in daily supply charges. Details on page 7 of the December 2018 edition of the RRVV Newsletter.


Council Rates

Property Council Rates PostcardThe Property Council – the peak body for operators of retirement villages – is conducting a campaign to persuade local councils to introduce differential rates for retirement villages. If you are asked to fill in one of these postcards (on left), please do so, and make sure they are sent to as many councillors as possible. In this way, the RRVV and its members can keep this important issue alive and hopefully bring it o a successful conclusion.

The RRVV supports the Property Council in its endeavours to achieve a rate reduction for all retirement village residents.


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