What’s the difference between your average home care provider and Mable, the original peer-to-peer ‘aged care disrupter’? Their workers and clients build relationships – and the CEO and co-founder says this will be a key point for older Australians looking for care and support post-pandemic.
Founded by Peter Scutt and Tony Charara in 2014 as Better Caring, Mable enables people needing aged care and disability services to build their own network of support staff through the platform. Mable is backed by James Packer-backed private equity firm Ellerston Capital with Scaleup Mediafund, backed by Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited, as a minor partner.
COTA Australia cleverly negotiated a 0.5% equity when Mable launched.
In 2018, they rebranded as Mable – inspired by the first-person expression of what people using the platform are able to achieve; “I’m Able to…” and raised $15 million last year from investors to fund its expansion.
Now Peter tells us with 11,000 registered carers, they are well-placed to tap into the growing market of older Australians seeking services as COVID-19 restrictions wind down in Australia.
Over 11,000 workers now on the platform
Mable launched a marketing campaign during the height of the pandemic, targeting both new support workers and clients which is paying off with their number of workers now over 11,000 – up from 10,000 in May.
“We indicated to people stood down from other sectors that there was an opportunity to redirect their skills,” Peter said.
“We have had a great response and now have a pipeline of people signed up and clients connecting people needing support.”
No requirements for aged care background – but opportunities to upskill
Peter credits the fact that the platform does not require workers to have formal aged care qualifications for entry-level social support and domestic support (personal care and other services such as medication assistance require formal qualifications).
“If they find the work rewarding, they can then upskill. It’s a great opportunity for people who have never thought of trying it.”
Small number of operators used platform as part of Government’s COVID-19 funding
Mable is also coming to the end of a three-month, $5.7 million contract with the Federal Government to provide extra staff to aged care providers during the pandemic when staff need to self-isolate at home.
Peter says they helped a small number of operators to find staff, with larger numbers signing up to the platform as part of their COVID contingency plans.
“The expanded access to the platform was generally helpful to the sector at the time when there was a much steeper infection curve but that has dissipated to a large degree,” he said.
Demand for social support and domestic assistance up
Mable recently conducted a survey with 500 Australians aged over 70 which found demand for social support and domestic assistance spiked during the lockdown measures – from 13% to 20% and 27% to 31%, respectively.
While most of the respondents were feeling positive about restrictions lifting, almost half (48%) worried about the risk of getting sick.
51% were concerned about infected people visiting their home.
80% to seek support in next 12 months
However, over 80% said they would be seeking some kind of aged care support in the next 12 months, with personal care (87%), travel and transport (86%), nursing services (84%) and social interactions (83%) the top-rated services.
Peter puts this on the high numbers of older Australians who were forced to-self-isolate without the usual supports of family and friends.
“Care is something they are starting to think about,” he said.
“People are feeling generally anxious about how they can cope independently after going through lockdown. It’s not just the practical elements of being isolated, it’s the loneliness and sense of isolation that can come from that.”
Little drop-off in client numbers during COVID
The CEO says their platform did not experience the 15 to 30% drop off in clients putting their services on hold that other home care providers have reported to us.
He attributes this to their model which allows clients to choose who comes into their home and build an ongoing relationship with their support staff.
“The risk with a rostered workforce is that you may not know where they have been,” Peter said. “There are fewer relationships and longer-term connections.”
“We’re reengaging with stronger numbers than before [the pandemic]”.
“A wave of innovation”
Peter says the pandemic also sparked a wave of innovation from their team – which now includes over 80 staff – that was delivered within a short space of time.
They shared safe practice protocols with both workers and clients, with screening questions for each to ask before visits.
Recognising that people would have more time at home, Mable fast-tracked their new Learning Hub for carers which offers free access to over 100 courses plus updates on training opportunities through partnerships with TAFEs and RTOs.
They also introduced digital IDs for workers to highlight that they were delivering an essential service as well as Mable Last Minute where people whose regular workers were unable to come could post last-minute jobs such as pharmacy or grocery pick-ups.
“A large number of workers opted in to receiving these job requests.”
PPE store for workers and clients
They also established their Mable Equip store for their community to access Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks and hand sanitiser on a cost recovery basis after both workers and clients reported difficulties in accessing them.
“That had a strong response from the community,” he said, underlining that they did not make a profit from the store – “We just felt it was important”.
Virtual support now available
Mable also added virtual support through video conferencing on their platform so clients who did not want to receive face-to-face services could be provided with companionship.
For example, a worker can drop off groceries at a client’s home and then use the platform to guide them through cooking a meal virtually.
Older people looking for social connection
Those that did put services on hold returned within weeks, Peter says, which he says was due to both the need for care and social connection.
“With the isolation and heightened levels of anxiety, we are finding people are very keen to reengage with their community and realising that they might need support to do that,” he said.
“It’s not just domestic assistance, but also the social connection, particularly on platforms like Mable where you’re choosing each other and building a relationship.”
Clients want to connect with workers
The CEO says based on the results of their survey, Mable is now expecting to see more demand for social support and domestic assistance post-pandemic – and he believes their personal touch will be a drawcard.
“What we see over and over again personal connection between people is important,” he said.
“Of course, availability matters… but when you have a relationship with the other party, we find people can be more flexible.”