The new scheme for aged care providers to report abuse and neglect in their homes will begin next year, with the aim of strengthening consumer protections and encouraging aged care providers to improve the quality and safety of their services.

The Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) is the latest in a series of federal government reforms aimed at improving the quality of aged care services, and has been designed to help reduce incidents of abuse and neglect in aged care.

It will begin operating from 1 July 2021.

The SIRS will give providers a new framework to help them respond to and manage serious incidents that occur in residential aged care, and will support care recipients affected by a serious incident.

It will sit alongside the Aged Care Quality Standards, the Charter of Aged Care Rights, and open disclosure requirements.

“All Australians have a right to live free from abuse and neglect,” says the Department of Health website. “This is a human right, current law and a reasonable community expectation.”

“Older people also have specific rights when receiving government-subsidised aged care services.”

A broader range of incidents must be reported

The goals of the SIRS are to reduce the risk of abuse and neglect in aged care, and to build providers’ skills so they can better respond to serious incidents. The scheme also aims to ensure people receiving aged care have the support they need.

Under the scheme, residential aged care providers will have to identify, record, manage and resolve all incidents, report a broader range of serious incidents to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, and put in place measures to prevent similar incidents from reoccurring.

Serious incidents that must be reported will include:

  • unreasonable use of force
  • unlawful or inappropriate sexual contact
  • neglect
  • psychological or emotional abuse
  • unexpected death
  • stealing or coercion by a staff member
  • inappropriate physical or chemical restraint

Importantly, providers will have to report incidents of abuse and aggression between aged care residents where the resident who commits the incident has a cognitive or mental impairment. These incidents were previously exempt from reporting.

Register for aged care workers also on the cards

The government is also conducting a feasibility study for a SIRS for home care services, as well as investigating the design of a worker register for aged care.

The Department of Health has published a paper – ’SRS Model for Implementation’ – on its website, which describes how the scheme will operate.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will “shortly” provide more information to help aged care providers prepare for SIRS.

Image: Cecilie Arcurs, iStock.

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