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Dawson Petie speaks to the UnitingCare Queensland report at the 33rd Synod. Photo: Supplied

UnitingCare faces challenges and changing times

The 33rd Synod heard that significant change in the health, aged care and community services sectors continues to impact every aspect of UnitingCare Queensland (UCQ).

Deputy chairperson of the UCQ board Dawson Petie outlined some of the challenges facing UCQ and how the organisation is responding.

“We continue to experience major change in government policy which impacts most if not all of the sectors in which we operate. We also continue to experience significant competition both from other not-for-profit organisations and increasingly in the private sector,” said Dawson. “In response we have undertaken a major restructure over the last couple of years; we now have a strong leadership team and a clear strategic direction. We also now have a clear governance framework … the result is much greater clarity on our purpose, our role, our function and our accountabilities.”

Since the 32nd Synod, UCQ has completed a three-year strategic plan as well as aligned business and culture plans and commenced the massive task of integrating its corporate support functions previously operated by Blue Care, UnitingCare Health and UnitingCare Community.

Outgoing UnitingCare Queensland CEO Anne Cross spoke about the process of transformation in the context of the marketisation of services, consumer-directed choice and increasing contestability of contracts in those services still directly funded by government.

“We are undertaking significant work to understand what our clients, our patients, our residents want and need from us, and to see their experience through their eyes. We have and are reviewing service models to ensure that we are able to respond quickly to emerging needs and well-positioned to deal with sector changes,” she said.

Anne highlighted the organisation’s work with the Queensland Government on the Newpin Social Benefit Bond, a new model of funding for social services which will operate in three sites across Queensland. The first centre will open in Cairns in 2018.

“Newpin is a therapeutic program that seeks to enable children removed from the care of their parents to be safely reunited with those parents. In Queensland our focus is to reduce the over-representation of Indigenous children living in out-of-home care,” said Anne.

“Newpin is funded through a social benefit bond using private funds, not government funds directly, to deliver the program with return to investors for successful outcomes which have been agreed with government.”

Anne said that UCQ was continuing to renew its aged care facilities, including building on Thursday Island, Mackay, Alice Springs and in Darwin.

“We’ve also continued to close some services to ensure that we do have sustainable portfolios and presence throughout the whole of Queensland and in the Northern Territory.”

Anne was honoured for her 14 years of service by a Minute of Appreciation. The new CEO, Craig Barke, joined the UnitingCare Queensland Board in 2011 and was appointed chairperson of the board in 2014.

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