The development of the Code of Conduct can be directly linked to the Fairfax/Four Corners investigation that featured the headline “Bleed them dry until they die”, positioning retirement village operators as mercenary big business.
The ethics of the sector were clearly being questioned.
We have received many communications from veteran operators incensed that the sector’s ethical radar has drifted.
John Burgess, Director of Vision Lifestyle Projects, sent us this great message:
A number of years back, we incorporated a Code of Practice not just into the village rules, but the bylaws of a strata village.
By Law No. 1. Code of Ethical Conduct
XXXXXXXX is a retirement community comprised of many different people each with their own individual and changing needs and aspirations which need to be kept in balance.
The Owners Corporation, all owners, residents, external contractors and the Manager and its staff are required to adhere to this Code of Ethical Conduct, or such other similar standards as may be introduced from time to time, that governs the manner in which the respective parties should interrelate.
The primary values to be observed are:
Value 1: The right of individuals to be treated with respect.
Value 2: The rights of the individual to life, liberty, and security.
Value 3: The right of individuals to have their religious and cultural identity respected.
Value 4: The right of competent individuals to self-determination.
Value 5: The right to an appropriate standard of care to meet individual needs.
Value 6: The right to privacy and confidentiality.
Value 7: The recognition that human beings are social beings with social needs.
These rights are to be protected no matter how frail, physically or mentally disabled, or financially, socially or psychologically vulnerable, the resident may be.
I think these social values lead to practical outcomes for the betterment of the community.
The point that the industry needs to understand is that the better operators have been incorporating these measures/values into their management for many years and as an industry we are so far behind where we should be.
John is committed. Some years ago he created his Community Vitality program which weaves this philosophy and benchmarking tools into village operations, including social indicators that underpin a successful village with the aim to continually improve. You can learn more HERE.
‘Fairness’ and a Charter of Residents Rights
The Residents of Retirement Villages Victoria (RRVV), the peak resident body in that state, follows the same line as John Burgess.
They would like to see a Charter that puts shape to ‘residents’ rights, freedoms and protections’.
They recognise that the law doesn’t require it but they would like to see “operators go this distance” because at the moment operators have “a huge amount of discretion” that can impact the daily life of residents.
They seek an increased level of “fairness”.
Interestingly one of the freedoms mentioned they would like is to be able to “make your own mistakes”. They point to operator decisions, say around the area of safety, where residents are prevented from living a normal life which may include small risks.
An example would be not being free to use the swimming pool alone.
Underpinning this, they also believe, is to build in the same ‘ethical’ base into the Code of Conduct as John Burgess champions.
They argue without it how do staff, including head office staff, have a barometer to make decisions other than based on the bottom line?