Elder abuse is a critical issue in aged care homes, with thousands of cases reported to the Health Department every year.

More recently there have been a number cases reported in the media of elder abuse from aged care staff, as well as other residents.

In 2016-2017, there were 2853 reports of “reportable assaults’’ and 2463 allegations of “unreasonable use of force”.

Reports of elder abuse typically come from the families or loved ones of the residents, who fear that something has occurred.

Aged care organisations, it has been suggested, are less likely to come forward, or even report, such incidents that occur in their facilities.

Now, Bupa has requested that aged care homes receive a “new amnesty arrangement­’ from the federal government.

Bupa, who have more than 70 centres around Australia, suggests that the fear of being fined or shut down prevents aged care facilities from contacting the Aged Care Quality Agency with incident reports.

And by having amnesty, organisations can “work collaboratively on rectifying issues” without the fear of retribution.

Bupa believes that the existing sanctions-based system might tempt some other aged care providers to cover up problems – which enables more elder abuse.

“The current punitive approach isn’t in the best interests of residents and, while largely not affecting Bupa, may lead some providers to avoid full disclosure,’’ a Bupa spokesperson told The Daily Telegraph.

“A shift to a collaborative but structured approach, which may include an amnesty-type arrangement where providers could come forward and ask for assistance from the quality agency when they are experiencing issues, could improve overall care across all providers.’’

There is a rule that aged care providers need to report all suspected or alleged assaults to police within 24 hours, as well as the federal health department – and in the past Bupa has been critical of this as there are challenges in investigating such cases.

Bupa told a parliamentary inquiry into aged care abuse that “in our experience, police are often unable to action this information in any meaningful way due to there being no evidence, and the challenges associated with following up on allegations involving people with cognitive impairment,’’

“Bupa believes it should be a requirement for all providers to thoroughly investigate serious incidents when they occur.’’

However,  yesterday Bupa supported the police reporting rule: “We believe that in addition to reporting to police, all providers should be required to have processes in place to thoroughly investigate all allegations of serious incidents, to ensure they are doing everything they possibly can to make sure residents are safe.’’

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