The start date of the new and expanded incident reporting scheme for residential aged care has been brought forward three months.

Minister for Education Dan Tehan introduced the Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Serious Incident Response Scheme and Other Measures) Bill 2020 into Parliament on 2 December on behalf of Minister for Health Greg Hunt.

The Serious Incident Response Scheme, which was recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Report Elder Abuse – A National Legal Response and the Carnell-Paterson review into regulatory processes, will replace the current reporting requirements in the Aged Care Act.

If the bill passes, the scheme will now begin in April 2021 instead of July.

Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck said the government is prioritising the implementation of SIRS as part of its response to the royal commission’s recommendations into COVID-19.

The government announced an additional $11 million for the scheme as part of that response last week, bringing its total investment in SIRS to $67.9 million to date.

Richard Colbeck

Mr Colbeck said the bill put stronger measures in place to help prevent elder abuse and protect the health and wellbeing of aged care residents.

“The Serious Incident Response Scheme … expands the responsibilities of aged care providers to identify, record, manage, resolve and report assaults and a broader range of serious incidents in residential aged care,” he said.

Under the legislation, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will get additional resources to administer SIRS, including receiving reports and taking proportionate regulatory action. 

This includes strengthening the aged care regulator’s enforcement powers with civil penalties, infringement notices, enforceable undertakings and injunctions across a range of provider responsibilities.

The legislation also removes current reporting exemption of incidents of abuse and aggression between aged care residents where the alleged perpetrator has an assessed cognitive or mental impairment.

Mr Colbeck said SIRS will drive improvements in residential aged care quality and safety at the individual service and broader system level, he said.

“It will require aged care providers to manage all incidents, with a focus on the safety and wellbeing of people in aged care. Importantly, providers will need to put measures in place to prevent similar incidents from reoccurring,” Mr Colbeck said.

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