Trio of Disability Service Providers Announce Merger
5 December 2017 at 8:34 am
A trio of leading disability service providers has joined forces to increase their impact in the lives of people with a disability across Australia and “take advantage” of what the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) can offer.
House with No Steps (HWNS), The Tipping Foundation (TTF) and Victorian Person Centred Services Inc (VISTA) have announced they will merge from 1 March 2018.
As a combined national organisation they aim to help shape the new disability services market across Australia in the best interest of their customers and all people with a disability.
Andrew Richardson, the current CEO of HWNS who has been announced as the CEO of the new merged organisation, told Pro Bono News it was “a great step forward” for their customers and staff.
“As you know the NDIS is changing the game for people with disability in Australia and for staff in service providers and so under our strategy we’ve been looking at ways where we can have more impact in the lives of more people,” Richardson said.
“Part of that is, that a national system really requires a national response, and so we went with The Tipping Foundation through quite an exhaustive process of looking at our culture, looking at the complementarity of our services and ultimately it made a whole lot of sense for us to come together so that we can help more people in more places in new and better ways.”
Richardson said the organisations would get “more bang for [their] buck” by working together.
“I think organisations have clear choices and one of those choices is do we want to be, in effect a low cost, labour hire organisation or do we want to be focused on maximising outcomes for people with disability,” he said.
“Our board and the Tipping board have both very clearly said that low cost labour has its place in lots of markets including the NDIS, we are all about helping people with disability live a great life, that’s our whole purpose and passion as an organisation and so given that, you do need a certain level of scale in order to invest in excellence.
“By coming together, Tipping and House with No Steps together, we’ll be able to continue to invest in developing and delivering the highest possible quality services that have a real focus on outcomes, secondly and ultimately, disability support is about the quality of your staff and the quality of the relationships that they form with the customers and so by coming together and increasing our scale, it also increases our ability to invest in attracting and developing and retaining the best staff and thirdly, I’d flag that we both are invested in transformational systems change and it makes a whole lot of sense to do that together.
“You get more bang for your transformational buck, when you invest together and so we are going to be continuing to invest in really effective customer-centric technology and solutions and just things that put the customer at the centre and then make it easier for our staff to support customers well and then in the back end also make it easier for us to deal with the behemoth that is the NDIA.”
Under the new organisation, HWNS, TTF and VISTA will continue to operate under their existing brand names, and customers will be supported by the same staff in the same services.
The inaugural board for the merge has already been selected. The chair will be Candice Charles, current chair of TTF, while Richard Madden, currently chair of HWNS will be deputy chair.
Richardson said they still had a “lot of hard work, planning and getting organised” before the merger comes into effect on 1 March.
“We will have appointed and announced our new executive leadership team by around the middle of January and then that team will be coming together to make sure that our day one organisation structure works well for our customers and our staff,” he said.
“We want day one for our customers to look and feel exactly like the day before so that the same staff are supporting you in the same types of ways and the same spaces as the day previously, and then we will be working every day to look for ways to improve the quality and impact of the service in people’s lives.”
Graeme Kelly, the current CEO of TTF and VISTA, who will be a senior executive and play a pivotal role in developing a new strategy for the merged organisation, said the NDIS was creating “exciting opportunities” for disability service providers to meet the needs of people with a disability in new and better ways.
“Each organisation has a proud history and vast experience with the NDIS,” Kelly said.
“There are many synergies – we have shared values, we provide a broad range of services and we both have a commitment to empowering people with a disability.”
He told Pro Bono News having a sense of a “common DNA” and shared vision, mission and values was critical for the success of a merger.
“If you can’t get passed that, the rest doesn’t stand up and I think we established that fairly early and we’ve been in discussions for over a year and it has stood up through that period of time, that we want the same things in the same way, notwithstanding we want to do it better in the future,” Kelly said.
“That common DNA is really important and the mission of the organisations are very aligned and we want to remain true to them but not be captured by them and do it in a more contemporary way.”
Kelly said he was most looking forward to “getting the best from both”.
“There is great talent in both organisations and I’ve been working closely with both for over a year now and I think the combined capacity, the combined board and the combined executive will unleash greater potential for the future,”.
He said he was “more optimistic than most” about the NDIS and its capacity to change lives of people with a disability for the better.
“It is really up to organisations like our new merged organisation to become better enabled to do it, so we can take advantage of what the NDIS has to offer, that’s not to say the NDIA the agency that runs it should be [complacent], they’ve got work to do too. But it is significantly about the sector changing rather than expecting the NDIA to adjust,” he said.
“It has got to be both parties doing what is right for people with a disability together and I think us coming together in a merged organisations provides greater opportunity to do that so I’m looking forward to it.”
Kelly said he would “absolutely” recommend other organisations to consider merging.
“It is a big step and it is really important to do it well,” he said.
“We have embarked on discussions before with other organisations that didn’t work out, that’s normal, I think you need to be, not careful but very discerning in the alignment that you make because it is going to shape your future. We’ve put an enormous amount of work into testing that and we’re very confident we’ve made the right call.
“I would also say be bold, staying the same isn’t an option anymore, [and] that has driven a lot of our thinking for the future. So rather than waiting for it to become a problem we’re getting on the front foot and creating the opportunities first.”