A new “reportable incidents scheme” in aged care would require aged care providers to report alleged assaults to the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner as well as the police and the Department of Health under proposals put forward by the Australian Law Reform Commission.
The changes would also require providers to investigate alleged incidents to identify any issues they needed to address. A provider’s investigation and response to identified issues would be overseen by the Commissioner.
The proposed new scheme is among 43 recommendations for law reform contained in a discussion paper released this week by the ALRC as part of its ongoing inquiry into Australia’s laws covering elder abuse.
The ALRC also calls for a broader range of abusive conduct to be covered under the new aged care incidents scheme.
Currently providers are required to report “unlawful sexual contact” and “unreasonable use of force” but the ALRC proposes a far wider definition for “reportable incident” that would also include fraud, neglect and unexplained physical injury.
The ALRC also proposes removing the current exemption that sees residents with a pre-diagnosed cognitive impairment excluded from the mandatory reporting regime.
The commission said it was concerned that providers were not required to conduct any type of investigation into incidents.
It said there are likely to be instances where police decide not to pursue a criminal investigation but there could be “significant concerns and risks” arising from the incident that require action from the provider.
“There may still be significant risks to the victim or others that could be identified and responded to if an appropriate investigation were performed,” the ALRC said.
As Australian Ageing Agenda has reported the current system of mandatory reporting provides little information beyond the number of alleged assaults – such as who the alleged perpetrator was, what action was taken in response to the report or the ultimate outcome (read our story here).
The ALRC identified this lack of information and said if its proposals were implemented “this information could be used to inform policy and system responses.”
Among the commission’s other proposals are sweeping changes to the laws around powers of investigations for public advocates and public guardians, enduring powers of attorney and enduring guardianship, family agreements, banking and social security.
The ALRC calls for a new online national register for enduring documents, as well as tighter witnessing and reporting requirements, and for public advocates and public guardians to have expanded roles in responding to elder abuse.
Banks would be required to take “reasonable steps” to prevent elder abuse under the proposals, while tribunals would hear disputes within families about “assets-for-care arrangements” to provide a low cost and less formal forum for dispute resolution.
The ALRC is calling for feedback on the proposals.
Its final report will be presented to government in May 2017.
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