The government will next week release a key review into Australia’s laws protecting older people from abuse that could see sweeping changes to mandatory reporting of alleged assaults in aged care.
The Australian Law Reform Commission last week delivered to government the findings of its review into the laws and frameworks to safeguard seniors from abuse.
The Attorney-General George Brandis will publicly release the report next Wednesday at an event in Melbourne marking World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
The commission has already flagged an overhaul of the mandatory reporting of alleged assaults in residential aged care in a discussion paper released late last year (read our coverage here).
It proposed a new “reportable incidents scheme” that 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.
Providers would also be required to investigate alleged incidents to identify any issues they needed to address.
The ALRC also proposed a broader range of abusive conduct would be covered under the new incidents scheme.
Currently providers are required to report “unlawful sexual contact” and “unreasonable use of force” but the ALRC flagged that fraud, neglect and unexplained physical injury could also be included.
The commission also suggested removing the current exemption that sees residents with a pre-diagnosed cognitive impairment excluded from the mandatory reporting regime.
Aged care provider peak bodies have said that more evidence and consideration is needed before the laws around mandatory reporting of assaults in aged care are expanded (read more here).
Current lack of information
Australian Ageing Agenda has previously reported how 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 that report here).
The ALRC identified this lack of information in its December discussion paper and said its proposed changes could see greater information “used to inform policy and system responses.”
More broadly, the commission flagged a raft of changes to laws governing powers of investigations for public advocates and public guardians, enduring powers of attorney and enduring guardianship, family agreements, banking and social security.
Ahead of the report’s release, seniors groups and advocates are preparing to host events and forums next Wednesday to highlight the issue of elder abuse.
“The prevalence of elder abuse in Australia is estimated to be over 5 per cent suggesting there are at least 175,000 older Australians who will experience elder abuse in their lifetime,” said Russell Westacott, CEO of Seniors Rights Service, which is hosting events across NSW next week.
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