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Does decent work result in good care?

International research project investigating the correlation between quality jobs for workers and the commensurate high level of care for clients. 

The Selwyn Foundation takes part in an international research project investigating the correlation between quality jobs for workers and the commensurate high level of care for clients.


Decent Work Good Care: International approaches to aged care is the official title of a three-year undertaking investigating the possible correlation, and inter-relationship, between the two.

The theory being that a more than satisfying environment for staff results in people living in care homes receiving a high level of attention.   

With overall funding provided by the Australian Government this joint research venture focuses on aged care provision in four countries—specifically Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Scotland.

As well as canvassing the views of senior management, views from front line staff working in care homes are an important part of the process.   

The study is investigating the links between quality jobs and quality care.  Through undertaking case studies in each country the study is gathering and sharing evidence on how national policies, regulations and funding, are operationalized through organisational practices and work design in individual agencies and providers. 

Furthermore, the study will identify what it calls ‘promising practices’ in aged care services that support care relationships between frontline workers and older people receiving care and support. 

Promising practices are defined as those that:

  • Treat both residents and providers with dignity and respect.
  • Understand care as a relationship.
  • Take differences and equity into account.

The project is being conducted by Professor Sara Charlesworth from Australia’s Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.  Working in partnership with Professor Donna Baines, The University of Sydney; Associate Professor Deb King, Flinders University (Australia); Professor Ian Cunningham, University of Strathclyde (United Kingdom) and Associate Professor Tamara Daly, York University (Canada), 

Thorough assessment  

A case study approach has been designed to produce, and capture, a number of benefits and outcomes.  A team of three to five researchers, made up of both 'insider' Australian and New Zealand and 'outsider' international researchers, will assess each organisation.  Those conducting the research are all highly experienced in aged care settings and considered international experts in the field.

The value of including both local and international researchers is that the 'outsider' will often question taken-for-granted assumptions about the impact of policy on the organisation’s culture and work.  Something which may be missed by local researchers.

The process will bring to the fore what are being called ‘promising practices’ to best promote decent work and good quality aged care services. 

Comparisons between Selwyn’s innovations in the new care home design and development and more traditional legacy homes. 

Finally, comparison from the trans-national case studies will identify variations in how care is organised—again in relation to national differences in the funding and employment systems.

The knowledge this three-year project will develop comes at a pivotal time in the evolution of the aged care system in all four countries.  Particularly for those who want to ensure sustainable, quality aged-care services are available and accessible. 

Over and above the international implications, in the New Zealand context the work is being conducted in an environment where a number of other factors that will influence the provision, and quality, of care have come to the fore. 

A range of factors, and increased competition for ‘scarce’ resources in the form of aged care nurses, has the potential to put older people, and those who care for them, in a less than satisfactory position. 

Attracting talent

Moreover, attracting the ‘best and brightest’ will be a challenge that aged care providers will need to be cognizant of. 

For the Selwyn Foundation the benefits of being involved in such a high level study, involving international experts in the field of age care, are many and varied. 

Participants in previous research undertaken by the research team members have found involvement in these type of studies beneficial. Aged care managers and staff have enjoyed hearing about and sharing innovative practices with the team and other participating entities.   

International trends and global ‘best practice’ have already inspired The Selwyn Foundation to push boundaries and challenge conventional thinking in care environments. 

Largely to make them more aligned to what residents want in terms of a home rather than having no say in the process in line with the practices of person-directed living and participatory care. 

In addition, participating in this type of academic research demonstrates how Selwyn is open to new ideas and values transparency and independent scrutiny.  It highlights a genuine interest in and willingness to learn ways in which to improve our services.

Most importantly, involvement signals the importance of acquiring, and sharing, knowledge of ageing to deliver better outcomes for older people. 

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