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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Constant concern of aged care sex assault

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More than 100 incidents of unlawful and inappropriate sexual contact in aged care homes have been reported in a month under a new scheme.

The Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) began at the start of April this year and ensures aged care providers keep a register of events such as neglect, stealing or abuse.

SIRS sets new arrangements for approved providers of residential aged care to manage and take reasonable action to prevent incidents with a focus on the safety, health, well-being and quality of life of aged care consumers.

It builds on previous compulsory reporting and expands the range of incidents that must be reported to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson said 3000 incidents had been reported to the scheme in its first month.

Of those, 1580 are a high priority and there are 10 investigations under way.

There were 108 reports of unlawful or inappropriate sexual contact.

“We have never been anything other than concerned about the level of reported sexual assault in residential aged care,” Anderson told a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra on Monday.

Staff at the aged care regulator would soon undergo training to better understand the risk of sexual assault in homes, she said.

Incidents are categorised into eight categories.

The highest number of reports in the month were of unreasonable use of force being used on aged care residents, at 55 per cent of incidents.

The next highest was neglect, followed by unexplained absence from care, unexplained death, psychological or emotional abuse, stealing or financial coercion by a staff member and then the use of inappropriate restraints.

The aged care royal commission made 148 recommendations for reform, including new laws to protect the rights of older people and increased regulator powers.

The damning report revealed one in three aged care residents in Australia had suffered substandard care and up to 18 per cent had been either physically or sexually assaulted.

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