From 1 December 2022, the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) will be extended from residential aged care to home care and flexible care delivered in a home or community setting.
This includes providers of Home Care Package, Short-Term Restorative Care at home, Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP), National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care (NATSIFAC), Multi-Purpose Services Program and Transition Care Program services.
What is SIRS?
SIRS is a legislative requirement to help reduce the incidents of elder abuse and neglect of people who receive aged care services.
Providers of aged care services are required to have an incident management system in place, such as Rely, to help leaders prevent, detect and respond to incidents to support the mandatory reporting of serious incidents.
How common is abuse in aged care?
Unfortunately, it is too common. Research from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety suggests approximately 40% of elderly Australians living in residential care have experienced emotional and physical abuse. The same research shows 60 percent of aged care staff admitted elder abuse in the past year.
What are reportable incidents?
An incident is any act, omission, event or circumstance that:
- Occurs –or is suspected or alleged to have occurred -in connection with the provision of care or services and
- Has, or could reasonably be expected to have caused, harm to a consumer or another person.
Under SIRS, there are 8 kinds of reportable incidents
- Unreasonable use of force – for example, hitting, pushing, shoving, or rough handling a person who receives aged care.
- Unlawful sexual contact or inappropriate sexual conduct – such as sexual threats against a person who receives aged care, stalking, or sexual activities without consent.
- Neglect of a person who receives aged care – for example, withholding personal care, untreated wounds, or insufficient assistance during meals.
- Psychological or emotional abuse – such as yelling, name calling, ignoring a person who receives aged care, threatening gestures, or refusing access to care or services as a means of punishment.
- Unexpected death – where reasonable steps were not taken by the provider to prevent the death, the death is the result of care or services provided by the provider or a failure by the provider to provide care and services.
- Stealing or financial coercion by a staff member – for example, if a staff member coerces a person to change their will to their advantage, or steals valuables from them.
- Inappropriate use of restrictive practices – such as:
- where a restrictive practice is used without prior consent or without notifying the person’s representative as soon as practicable
- where a restrictive practice is used in a non-emergency situation, or
- when a provider issues a drug to a person to influence their behaviour as a form of restrictive practice.
- Unexplained absence from care – where the person is absent from the service without explanation and there are reasonable grounds to report the absence to the police.
Please note, there are proposed changes to what is a reportable incident in the Exposure draft – Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Incident Management and Reporting) Instrument 2022. It is recommended you review your policies and procedures in relation to this update.
Under the SIRS, an allegation, suspicion, or witness account of any of the above serious incidents must be reported to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.
How should aged care providers respond to incidents?
The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission recommends aged care providers use the following framework to respond to incidents.
1. Build a physically and psychologically safe culture first
- Ensure all employees understand your organisation’s Code of Conduct, SIRS-related and OHS policies and procedures about treating elderly people with the respect and care they deserve.
- Leaders need to foster a psychologically safe environment where people feel safe to speak up. This means leaders must listen to concerns from the elderly people in their care, family members, carers and employees. Psychological safety must be a constant, it can’t be switched on in response to an incident, then switched off.
- Leaders and managers can’t be everywhere, all the time, to witness or take reports of incidents and near misses, especially when you have a dispersed workforce, such us with home care, where employees work around the clock. A system like Rely helps leaders to listen 24/7 because people can report incidents and near misses anywhere, anytime from desktop, mobile and tablet devices. That information is secure and presented as an issue for case management.
2. Respond to the incident
- Respond to the immediate needs of people affected by the incident and ensure their health, safety and wellbeing.
3. Record and Report the Incident
- Log all incidents using intake forms customised to the Serious Incident Response Scheme, your organisation’s own Code of Conduct and SIRS compliant policies and procedures.
- Provide an incident reporting portal, such as Rely, where people can report issues, either anonymously or by name.
- Guide managers on what information to capture for the reporting of SIRS incidents, and how to investigate the incident in a trauma-informed and compassionate way.
- Store documents, confidential records, all activity & log the chain of evidence in one secure incident management platform, such as Rely.
4. Analyse the Incident
- Use intelligent data analytics to identify the root cause of incidents so you can reduce the risk of the same issue happening again.
- Aggregate data in one secure location and use dashboards and trend analysis to identify hotspots within your organisation. For example, do incidents occur more frequently at one location, during a particular shift or with a certain group?
5. Implement actions
- Use workflows and tools to facilitate thorough investigations and take remedial action.
6. Close the Loop
- Use insights gained via the investigation to deliver incident management staff training and preventative training in line with roles and responsibilities of workers and management.
- Review current policies and procedures to ensure that they reflect the SIRS reporting requirements, and to roles and responsibilities.
- Analyse trends and take proactive, preventative action to protect other elderly people in your care from abuse or neglect.
How to report serious incidents
For information on how to notify the Commission of a reportable incident, see: Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission: Serious Incident Response Scheme.
- Serious Incident Response Scheme: Incident management systems
- Exposure draft and explanatory statement of the Aged Care Legislation Amendment
- Introducing SIRS in home services
See how Rely helps you manage incidents, comply with SIRS and build better, safer environments for elderly people in your care and employees.