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New reporting scheme released on WEAAD

A new Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) will be rolled out from 1 July 2021 aiming to protect older Australians from abuse and neglect, receiving an initial investment of $23 million from the Federal Government.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will be receiving enhanced powers to enforce the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS). [Source: iStock]
The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will be receiving enhanced powers to enforce the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS). [Source: iStock]

Coinciding with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Richard Colbeck, says the scheme is an important measure to guarantee transparency and keep everyone's older loved ones safe.

This announcement follows the recent release of a prevalence study that provided a framework for implementing this scheme.

Minister Colbeck says, "The Federal Government continues to take huge steps towards the ongoing protection and welfare of vulnerable and senior Australians.

"Any abuse of a care recipient is unacceptable and that is why we committed to implementing a Serious Incident Response Scheme for residential aged care in the 2019-20 Budget."

The scheme will require all residential aged care providers to manage incidents with a focus on the safety and wellbeing of consumers, and reduce preventable incidents from recurring. 

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will be receiving enhanced powers to enforce the SIRS, like taking regulatory action with providers, and will be receiving the incident reports.

The scheme will require reporting of broader incidents, including neglect, psychological or emotional abuse, and inappropriate physical or chemical restraints, that older people may experience while in aged care facilities.

Another huge change due to the scheme is the lift on reporting exemptions. For instance, there can be reporting of resident on resident incidents where the perpetrator has an assessed cognitive impairment. Previously, this was not a reportable incident.

This reform was recommended in the Australian Law Reform Commission's (ALRC's) Report, Elder Abuse - A National Legal Response, and the Review of National Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes.

The funding will also support a prevalence and feasibility study to inform future Government decisions on the potential introduction of a similar scheme in home and community aged care services.

The funding package will also go towards investigating the design, implementation and regulation of a worker register for aged care, which the Federal Government announced two weeks ago.

Minister Colbeck believes the scheme will be another important measure to reinforce the aged care sector.

"We understand there is still much work to do. Improving aged care for senior Australians continues to be one of the Morrison Government’s key priorities," says Minister Colbeck.

Dementia Australia has welcomed the SIRS announcement, which the organisation believes will keep people living with dementia safe.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Dementia Australia, Maree McCabe, says, "Dementia Australia was consulted on the scheme and expressed that in order for it to fully succeed, it needs to be embedded into the aged care system in a seamless way, and roles and responsibilities must be clearly articulated.

"Restricted visitation in residential aged care homes due to COVID-19 has resulted in lower levels of engagement for people living with dementia.  

"It is important that there are safeguards in place to ensure quality of life for people living with dementia, especially when visitation is restricted. This initiative is a positive step towards meeting the needs of people living with dementia, staff and residents, as well as reassuring family and carers that their loved ones are being cared for.

"The announcement comes at a time when people living with dementia are some of the most vulnerable people in our community, and it is promising to hear of plans that will help to provide safeguards in the future."

The use of chemical and physical restraint on people living with dementia has always been a concern for Dementia Australia.

"There needs to be a commitment from all stakeholders to dementia education to eliminate the inappropriate use of restraints, and to improve the health and care outcomes for people living with dementia," adds Ms McCabe.

"We look forward to continuing to work with the government and aged care sector on this initiative to reduce the risk of abuse for all people living with dementia."

Victorian State Government announce funding on WEAAD 

Meanwhile, the Victorian Government has committed $1.5 million in funding to boost key services working with older Australians at risk of abuse or isolation and to provide better support.

The State's Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, Luke Donnellan, and Minister for Prevention of Family Violence, Gabrielle Williams, announced the funding, with $1.1 million invested into the Council on the Ageing (COTA), as an auspice of Senior Rights Victoria (SRV) and Seniors Information Outreach (SIO), to provide support, information and more to older Australians. 

An extra $300,000 will ensure ten Elder Abuse Prevention Networks to continue through the year while raising awareness and preventing elder abuse occurring.

Additionally, $120,000 will be going to the Office of the Public Advocate in Victoria, to help identify safeguarding options for at-risk adults as part of Victoria's work on the National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians.

Minister Donnellan says, "While being in quarantine and limiting physical interaction is vital to slowing the spread of the coronavirus, we know it can be difficult for people’s health and wellbeing – particularly for Victorians who may already be isolated.

“We must keep older Victorians well, which is why elder abuse prevention and early intervention is so critical. This funding will give Victorians confidence that supports are in place for older people to continue to get help.”

Minister Williams adds, "Negative stereotypes contribute to a culture where older people are afforded less power and control. We must change these social attitudes to prevent elder abuse from happening in the first place.

"We must focus on prevention. That is why the Victorian Government is proud to continue to support our state’s Elder Abuse Prevention Networks."

SRV’s free confidential helpline provides support, referrals and legal advice for older people, and community education and support for professionals. The helpline is open from 10am – 5pm weekdays on 1300 368 821.

SIO provides a free information service to older people, their families and carers through outreach programs held across Victoria with local services. The service is open weekdays from 9.30am – 4.00pm on 1300 135 090.

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