Nov 02, 2022

Legislation amendments: reporting extended, sexual abuse a higher priority

Draft amendments to Aged Care Legislation could see the Serious Incident Response Scheme extended to home and flexible aged care settings, and sexual assault bumped to a Priority 1 reportable incident. 

The amendment drafts propose an extension of the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) into home and community care settings, in a bid to improve provider transparency and accountability, and ensure the best interests and quality care of recipients are at the forefront.

The Government is seeking feedback on Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Incident Management and Reporting) Instrument 2022, and Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Governance and Reporting for Approved Providers) Principles 2022 to support suggestions made by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Royal Commission and move closer to properly reforming the sector.

If the amendments pass Parliament, from December 1 these laws will require all approved providers, including those that provide home care and flexible care delivered in home and community settings, to undertake SIRS reporting.

The SIRS was formed in 2021, following recommendations from the Royal Commission, to reduce the likelihood of older people experiencing abuse or neglect in aged care facilities, ensuring they receive support as soon as possible in the event of an incident and to reduce the likelihood of it happening again.

Older Persons Advocacy Network Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Craig Gear, said he was pleased about both of the proposed amendments, but particularly the SIRS reporting being extended into home and flexible care areas, as it would prompt carers to respect the autonomy of older people living in their own homes. 

“The settings are slightly different [in home care and residential aged care], but wherever older people are, they have the right to high quality and safe care,” he said.

“There are incidents that may occur that need to be reportable, especially if it is related to the provider, such as sexual assault and psychological abuse.”  

The amendments would also make the move of unlawful sexual contact or inappropriate sexual conduct into the Priority 1 SIRS reportable incidents category official under law, as it is currently only part of a guideline.

A Priority 1 sexual incident must be reported within 24 hours of a provider becoming aware of it.

Founder of Celebrating Ageing, Dr Catherine Barrett, was happy to see this type of abuse be made part of the law, as it will now give clarity to providers on when and when not to report an incident. 

“This is a whole-system approach to creating change and it’s really clear now about reporting, and now we need to analyse the data around sexual assaults to see where more improvements can be made,” she explained. 

“We need the legislation to guide the policy, to guide education and the information.”

Establishing governing bodies in aged care

Also from December 1, the proposed legislation amendments around governance and reporting for approved residential aged care providers would recommend that providers establish their own governing body and a quality care advisory body to ensure compliance.

The quality care advisory body must give the governing body a written report at least once every six months about the quality of care being provided, detailing feedback and complaints the provider has received, and the details of any improvements made to address them.

Other aspects of the report would cover:

  • The availability of allied health practitioners or other health support at the service (such as physiotherapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists and hearing or vision services)
  • The availability of Registered Nurses at the service
  • Staff turnover at the service
  • Feedback received from care recipients about the quality of food, including food preparation
  • Menu assessments conducted by an accredited practising dietitian 

Approved providers would also need to provide information about the diversity of the people in their governing body, and initiatives that have been implemented to support a diverse and inclusive environment for care recipients and staff members.

Mr Gear thought the diversity aspects of the amendments were a positive, but said it should be noted if a provider chose not to establish the recommended governing bodies. 

“If providers decline to form a consumer advisory body, I think that too should be recorded and the rationale behind it,” he said.

“We want to encourage providers to do this, rather than accepting that they say ‘no’ and not reporting that. 

“Quality care advisory bodies are particularly needed in residential aged care and the great news is a lot of providers already have these in place, but this provides clarity around what’s needed.”

In addition to reporting changes, approved providers would need to keep records of how suitable they think their key personnel are to provide aged care services. 

This assessment may require the provider to keep records of personal information about their key personnel, such as police checks, or evidence of work experience or training. 

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission may also view these records to ensure compliance with their new responsibilities.

To submit comments about the Incident Management and Reporting legislation amendments, email the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission at sirs@agedcarequality.gov.au.

To submit comments about the Governance and Reporting for Approved Providers legislation amendments, email ProviderGovernance@health.gov.au by 5pm AEDT on Sunday, November 13.

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  1. I am sure that those of us who work in the aged care industry are fine with the legislative changes. However, at what point is someone at either State or Federal level going to admit that there is more abuse happens to the aged in their own homes from family than ever occurs in residential aged care or from home care type staff? All the publicity of legislative changes related to the aged care industry, continues to paint a picture that we are either not to be trusted, are all driven by financial imperatives or are incompetent. Furthermore the industry regulatory body promotes this view of the industry as their publicity is all about the need to control and regulate aged care providers who are still operating with a mentality from the dark ages. No wonder that people of my age in the industry are leaving en masse because we are sick of it.

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