29 November 2022

What is mandatory reporting?

7 min read

Everyone who moves into care has the right to be treated with dignity and respect, and given access to the food, comfort and medical treatment that meets their individual needs. To ensure this happens in Australia, there are very strict rules and regulations in place. These ensure any non-compliance is quickly noticed, rectified and prevented from happening again.

What is Mandatory Reporting in Aged Care?

The Aged Care Act of 1997, was established to ensure reportable incidents and mandatory reporting in aged care in Australia. The Aged Care Act in Australia is a set of laws that protect the rights of older people who live in aged care homes. However, on 15 February 2021, an amendment to the Aged Care Act 1997 (Cth) was passed by the Federal Parliament. It replaces the current mandatory reporting requirements in the Aged Care Act 1997 (Cth) (Act) and introduces the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS).

SIRS commenced on 1 April 2021. Broadly, the SIRS requires aged care providers to identify, record, manage, resolve and report all serious incidents that occur, or are alleged, or suspected to have occurred, in a residential aged care service. The SIRS regime replaced the current reporting requirements in the Act.

SIRS applies to residential care or flexible care provided in a residential aged care setting and requires providers to establish a documented set of protocols, processes, standards and operating procedures to manage 'reportable incidents'. Reportable incidents are defined as incidents that have occurred (or are alleged or are suspected of having occurred) and include instances of:
• unreasonable use of force against the residential care recipient
• unlawful sexual contact, or inappropriate sexual conduct, inflicted on the residential care recipient
• psychological or emotional abuse of the residential care recipient
• unexpected death of the residential care recipient
• stealing from, or financial coercion of, the residential care recipient by a staff member of the provider
• neglect of the residential care recipient
• use of physical restraint or chemical restraint in relation to the residential care recipient (other than in circumstances set out in the Quality-of-Care Principles) and
• unexplained absence of the residential care recipient from the residential care services of the provider (Serious Incidents)
The SIRS framework is broader than the previous 'reportable assault' framework that requires providers to report incidents of alleged, suspected or actual reportable assaults, to Police and the Department of Health within 24 hours. The current exceptions to reporting, including where their alleged perpetrator has a cognitive impairment, has not been included in the SIRS framework.
The SIRS framework provides protections for people who disclose incidents of abuse or neglect in aged care services. These protections extend to both existing and former employees as well as current and past care recipients, their families and others supporting them, including volunteers.
Overall, the new SIRS framework is designed to enable providers of aged care services to effectively respond to serious incidents and take steps to ensure they do not reoccur. The SIRS require providers to effectively manage and take reasonable steps to prevent Serious Incidents, including through implementing and maintaining effective governance systems for the management and reporting of incidents of abuse and neglect.

Who is responsible for mandatory reporting in aged care?

Registered nurses, enrolled nurses and assistants in nursing are required to report any suspected or actual abuse of people in their care. They must report to their employer and/or directly to the Police, the Department of Health (however named), the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, or where appropriate, the jurisdiction-based Health Care Complaints Commissioner or Health Ombudsman.

The person to whom the report is made, has a legal obligation to investigate and act and to advise the person making the report that action has been taken, and in what manner.

If the person making the report is not satisfied with the action taken, they have an obligation to make the report to a higher authority. The person making the report must not be subject to any victimization or discrimination in the workplace as a result of making the report.

Mandatory reporting in aged care and incident management

Having strict systems in place ensure that as little as possible goes wrong and that aged care residences maintain the highest possible level of accountability.

Since SIRS was introduced in 2021, aged care homes have been encouraged to create stringent protocols so staff understand how to avoid and report serious incidents. They receive regular training so there is a clear understanding of right vs wrong and a clear outline of what to do in the event of a worst-case scenario.

As a large national provider of aged care services Estia Health residents’ and employee safety and wellbeing is core to our care services. And as such we have historically had a well-established Incident Management System for responding to and managing incidents and reporting them to the authorities and resident representatives, in a timely fashion. In March 2021, these processes were updated to align with the SIRS legislative obligations.

At Estia Health we have a Clinical Development Team, dedicated to the education of our entire nursing staff who hold regular in-service education modules for our employees. Additionally, we have a team of staff who report on the Commissions updates and findings and ensure that all of our homes are constantly up to date with any new protocols. With 70+ homes and 8000 employees, we are constantly updating, educating and ensuring that our workplaces are safe, reliable and highly regarded.

Find out more here about our homes, respite care and long term care.