Government introduces legislation for $68M Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) into Parliament – regulator to enforce new civil penalties and enforceable undertakings

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The residential care sector is one step closer to having a team to investigate serious incidents after the Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Serious Incident Response Scheme and Other Measures) Bill 2020 was passed into Parliament.

As we covered here, the Government announced in June that the SIRS would come into effect from 1 June 2021 – but this date was brought forward to 1 April 2021 after the Royal Commissioners highlighted the need for the scheme in their special COVID report released in October.

Earlier this week, the Government said it would invest another $11.1 million in the Scheme, taking its total investment to date to $67.9 million.

Aged Care Minister, Senator Richard Colbeck (pictured above) says the scheme will expand the responsibilities of aged care providers to identify, record, manage, resolve and report assaults as well as a broader range of serious incidents in residential care.

“It will drive quality and safety improvements in residential aged care 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.”

More powers for the regulator

Critically, the legislation will ‘beef up’ the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC), which will have additional resources to administer the SIRS, including receiving reports and taking proportionate regulatory action.

These will include wider enforcement powers with civil penalties, infringement notices, enforceable undertakings, and injunctions across a range of provider responsibilities.

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

Given the high number of incidents involving residents living with dementia, the expectation is that providers’ reporting requirements will increase considerably in this area.

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