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Improved service, increasing capacity for up to 5 times more customers, financial savings and reducing risks to Council.

Presenting Problems:

Local Council was funding and also receiving State Government money to subsidise their Aquacise Program.  State funding was under review and likely to be withdrawn, so Council was assessing the future of this service.  Customer complaints were also flagged as a concern.

Context:

The Aquacise class had 20 participants attending one aquacise class a week, at the local privately run indoor pool as a low impact, group fitness option for over 50’s (although most participants were over 65 years of age). There had been waiting list of 20 people unable to join the program for years. Most participants had been using the service since its inception with very little turnover and new applicants were rarely accepted.

The service was coordinated by a Council Community Centre and had been running for over 10 years. Participants paid a subsidised rate for the service to Council, who completed all administration, subsidy reporting, and paid the private provider for:

  • pool hire fee,
  • a separate entry fee for each participant, and
  • a contracted aquacise instructor.

Council subsidised the aquacise classes by $7,200 per annum ($2,400 per annum from Council and $4,800 from State Government funding).

Risks included participants not updating medical clearances annually, no apparent contractual agreement with the private pool provider and lack of clarity on who would be liable in case of accident and injury.

Customer complaints on a variety of issues had been increasing from participants and those on the waiting list. In contrast, regular evaluation forms by participants had been positive about the service and its health benefits.

Although linked to Council’s strategic plan, there was no legislative requirement to provide the service directly. 

Analysis Showed:

  • Council was paying a premium for the service
  • Other Councils had outsourced their aqua programs and most did not subsidise the program for seniors. The pool providers of these councils were also undertaking all administration, reducing work for staff.
  • Alternative funding and indoor pool locations were not viable.
  • The private provider would welcome taking over the program and saw the aquacise program as their contribution to the community (and hoped to attract local seniors who would potentially bring their families to the pool).
  • Existing and potential customers supported outsourcing the service to the private provider, had a desire for additional aquacise classes at different times, and were accepting of a price increase in line with other Community Centre programs.

Outcomes:

At first, Council partly outsourced to the private pool operator with some subsidisation of the entry fee. Later, the service was fully outsourced with no Council subsidisation.

Outcomes are summarised as follows:

FromTo
$2,400 subsidy by Council
$4,800 in State Government funding
$7,200 in total
$0 by Council
1 aquacise class per week5 Aqua Strength classes per week over 4 days providing more choice for older residents
20 participants
Wait list of 20
Capacity for up to 100 weekly participants, averaging 50 during COVIDNo waiting list.
Fully run Council Community Centre programFully outsourced program
Estimated 2-3 days of Administration per quarterNo administration from Council staff
14 complaints within 6 months0 complaints to Council
High riskNo risk to Council
Acceptable program but not endorsedStrength for Life Program recommended by Office for the Ageing
Participant willing to pay $7, but subsidised to $5 per classParticipant fee $7 during partial outsourcingFull outsourcing at $8 per person

Learning:

A full picture review had not previously been undertaken for this community service. This review consulted key stakeholders and examined alternative service models to provide new insights. Outsourcing provided better customer outcomes, savings and re-direction of Council and State Government resources to other community services.

Review conducted in May 2018, outcomes at January 2021.