A government-commissioned report recommends a broader range of reportable incidents in aged care and outlines five options for a new serious incident scheme, three of which apply across all settings.

The federal government released the KPMG-developed report Strengthening protections for older Australians – Development of models and options for a Serious Incident Response Scheme for Commonwealth-funded aged care service providers on Friday.

Aged care minister Ken Wyatt announced in April 2018 that options for a Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) would be developed for the reporting and investigation of alleged incidents of abuse and neglect in aged care following recommendations the previous year from both the Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry into elder abuse and the Carnell-Paterson Review.

The report was informed by these reviews and a consultation with more than 130 aged care stakeholders from provider and care peak bodies and representative from aged care organisations and the workforce.

The report recommends the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission oversee the SIRS and that definitions of reportable conduct by staff to resident include physical, sexual or financial abuse, seriously inappropriate, improper, inhumane or cruel treatment and neglect.

Resident-to-resident reportable conduct should include sexual abuse, physical abuse causing serious injury and an incident that is part of a pattern of abuses, it said.

The current definition for reportable assault under the Aged Care Act 1997 is unlawful sexual contact with a resident of an aged care home or unreasonable use of force on a resident of an aged care home.

Key among the options is the third proposal, which involves introducing a scheme that captures reportable conduct by staff members in all aged care settings including home care, the Commonwealth Home Support Program and flexible care.

This option, which the report said was widely supported by stakeholders involved in the consultation, requires all aged care service providers to report abuse or neglect by a staff member against a care recipient to the quality and safety commission.

This option addresses a number of issues raised in recent inquiries and reviews “including shifting the emphasis from requiring providers to report an incident, to requiring an investigation and response,” the report said.

This proposal also forms the basis for option four, which calls for unexplained serious injury to be added as a serious incident, and option five, which recommends aggression and abuse between consumers in residential aged care settings be included as a serious incident.

The first two options involve no change and guidance to support providers to identify and respond to serious incidents respectively, and are applicable to residential aged care only.

These options do not address the issues identified by the reviews nor the majority of stakeholders support for changing current arrangements, the report said.

Implementation time frame

The report proposes a five-stage phased implementation of the SIRS commencing immediately and going live on 1 July 2022 followed by six months of testing and monitoring.

The set-up phase involves three stages over two-and-a-half years, starting with six months to develop a policy proposal, estimate cost and regulatory burden and seek a decision from the government.

The report proposes the two-part implementation phase commence in July 2021 and be completed by December 2022.

The report recommends monitoring of the SIRS throughout the implementation process to prove its effectiveness and an evaluation in the future to assess its efficacy.

Mister Wyatt said this report was another step in building better guidelines and standards of care that would ultimately provide safer environments for aged care residents.

“The government will respond to the proposed options in the report shortly,” Mr Wyatt said.

Access the report here.

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