Better Caring, a peer-to-peer (P2P) marketplace for aged care and disability support services, has received AU$3 million from Ellerston Ventures, whose shareholdings also include online marketplaces HiPages and Genero. This brings the total amount raised by Better Caring to AU$5.85 million.
The latest round of funding comes 12 months after the Sydney-based startup raised AU$2.3 million from a consortium of investors including Computershare co-founder Tony Wales.
The funding is well-timed to capitalise on the rollout of the AU$22 billion National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) from July 1 this year, as well as the changes to aged care legislation coming into effect in February 2017 that are focused on giving consumers greater choice.
The funding will be used primarily to increase awareness of Better Caring's platform, which allows people with disabilities, or those who are ageing, to find and hire local care and support workers based on criteria that are important to them.
The genesis of Better Caring
Better Caring was founded by Peter Scutt and Tony Charara in 2014.
Scutt said the inspiration for building the care worker marketplace spawned from the experiences of his ageing parents.
At the time, Scutt's father was in his 90s and very frail, while his mother was in her 80s and living with dementia. They were both determined to remain living at home, but finding a skilled and affordable home-based care worker who would connect with them socially was proving to be difficult, Scutt said.
As such, Scutt's parents ended up having very little choice over the care they received. Up to 20 care workers would walk in and out of their home every month to fulfil their tasks, and no relationships were being built in the process.
"When I would go back to visit my parents, I would hear my father talking about the rotating door of workers coming through the house. There might be 20 workers over a month and he wouldn't know who was coming to shower and dress him up until they knocked on the door," Scutt told ZDNet.
"My mother and father's lives were lost in that task-based service provision. People were in and out to do a job, not realising they were supporting an individual. In the current model, no relationships are being built between patients and carers."
Scutt teamed up with Charara to launch Better Caring in December 2014. Neither had any professional experience in the aged care industry, but firmly believed a new, more personalised model was necessary.
The current model of care involves the government directly funding care providers to deliver services to consumers, meaning that big care provider organisations sit at the centre of the market. In February next year, under the new aged care model, the government will fund consumers individually, giving them the ability to choose their care workers.
"The current industry is very much built around rostering the workforce across disparate households as efficiently as possible, and that does lend itself to becoming a task-based culture. But consumers very much want to be seen as people and build relationships with their care workers," said Scutt.
"What our model is doing is putting consumers and workers at the centre of the market, connecting them directly. That's the foundation for much stronger relationships, greater transparency, and more cost-efficiency," said Scutt.
Better Caring was founded on the basis that consumers who are ageing or living with disabilities are not passive.
After signing up to Better Caring, these consumers -- with the assistance of family members or third-party advocates if needed -- can search and filter care workers based on criteria that's important to them.
Scutt said consumers have preferences that the aged care system doesn't account for. For example, one consumer might prefer their care worker is pet-friendly; another consumer might need a care worker who can assist with specific household tasks.
Consumers can then contact the care workers they believe might be right for them, discuss specifics, and come to an agreement.
The care workers, on the other hand, go through a stringent 13-step onboarding process before their profile -- which outlines their qualifications, previous experiences, and the services they're looking to offer -- is visible to consumers on the platform.
"There are obviously a lot of vulnerable people across the aged care and disability sector, so we have a lot of checks and balances around onboarding," said Scutt.
"Also, we have a feedback system that allows consumers to share their experiences with particular workers. This is an incredibly important layer of accountability ... Peer-to-peer marketplaces are built on trust. You have to learn to maintain that trust of the community to be able to operate on them."
Care workers can choose their hourly rates depending on their qualifications, experience, ratings, travel distance, and so forth. Scutt added that care workers have greater control over their work life -- they can choose how often they work and who with.
Better Caring also manages all transactions on behalf of the care workers.
The company takes a cut from both sides: 5 percent from consumers and 10 percent from care workers. If a care worker charges AU$30 an hour, then Better Caring would charge the consumer a service fee of AU$1.50, while the careworker would be charged AU$3.00.
The service fees cover operational costs as well as the insurances that are put in place on behalf of the care workers.
"There's a lot of overhead in the industry. To give you an example, a typical government package might be AU$49,000 a year and the client would receive 11 hours of care a week from that. It's costing the government maybe AU$80 to AU$100 to deliver care for an hour, but the careworker would only receive around AU$20 to AU$25 an hour," said Charara.
"Whereas through our site, where costs are typically between AU$30 to AU$40 an hour, we're allowing the careworker to earn more and the client to receive more hours of care."
In addition to connecting consumers to care workers, Better Caring offers a care management platform where patient notes are recorded.
"This idea of keeping track of in-home care is something that's emerging in tech as a way to improve health outcomes ... On Better Caring, care workers are required to note what happens in every session. It could be recording medication history, post-operative procedure notes, rehabilitation information feedback, etc. The notes can then be shared between care workers and with medical professionals," said Charara.
Better Caring has generated around 7,000 care worker registrations, of which only 750 have been approved, and 3,000 consumer registrations.
To date, Better Caring has facilitated more than 70,000 hours of care.
"When you think of the size of the aged care market, it's almost a million ageing people receiving some form of care and support in the home. It's getting close to half a million people that are being funded directly under the National Disability Insurance Scheme," said Scutt.
"Consumers in households and communities all over Australia are being serviced by hundreds of thousands of care workers, so there's certainly a place for a marketplace like ours catering to a large proportion of that market."
The same way Uber created jobs for everyday drivers, Better Caring wants to make it easier for people in the community to become carers.
"We're opening up the sector to a new workforce and providing a new pathway for empathetic people in the community who probably won't want to work for big providers and be rostered around households. These people can create a profile and work for people locally in their community," said Scutt.
"It could even be a way for people to re-enter the workforce, such as mums whose kids are at school between 9am to 3pm. It could be university students or people who are underemployed in other sectors. It's very rewarding work and you can manage it flexibly."
The AU$3 million investment will allow Better Caring to increase awareness as changes come into effect.
"Home care packages attached to the individual will support different providers, giving the consumer more choice. So we see substantial growth opportunities for a model like ours that connects consumers and care workers directly," said Scutt.
"We're preparing to scale up the business and drive awareness with consumers and care workers across aged care and disability sector."
He added that Better Caring will also drive better outcomes for the Australian government.
"If we can create more efficiency, what it means for government is the consumer is going to be able to afford more hours of care and support, which will directly translate to more jobs," said Scutt.
"Instead of the government funding being lost in overhead, it is actually going to more local jobs and driving better outcomes for consumers. They've introduced these reforms for good reasons. I think innovation like ours is a really important response to that."