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The Commissioner in charge of Australia’s aged care regulator has backed its new initiative to address issues of concern in federally-subsidised aged care facilities, noting that the “scheme strengthens existing provider obligations” while adding “new enforcement powers”.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission’s (ACQS) Janet Anderson PSM made the comments at this year’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which was hosted online by the Aged Rights Advocacy Service (ARAS) last week.

Speaking about the ACQSC’s new Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS), which commenced in April ahead of a full roll-out later in October, Ms Anderson said the initiative addresses eight types of reportable incidents, ranging from the unreasonable use of force to inappropriate physical or chemical restraint.

Serious incidents (Priority One) are considered incidents that create or risk physical or psychological harm, which must be reported by providers within 24 hours.

Less immediately severe incidents will become part of the scheme from October, Ms Anderson said.

While there has been a revision of provider obligations as part of this process, the ACQS described the SIRS as sitting alongside and complimenting the existing Quality Standards,. Ms Anderson left no doubt that the legislation of the SIRS gave her team the scope to act when elder people are treated improperly.

“We have been given more of both [power and resources],” Ms Anderson said while answering audience questions during the web forum.

“The SIRS legislation extended our powers and gave us access to additional means of interacting with the provider and holding them to account against the Aged Care Quality Standards.”

Ms Anderson also drew attention to additional funding provided by the federal government in this year’s budget.

“We will use that to extend our frontline staffing across quality assessment and monitoring, complaints, compliance – all aspects of our engagement with the sector,” she said.

“They [the government] understood that in order for us to be fully effective, and have the sort of impact that is expected of a national regulator, we needed to receive additional resources.”

Ms Anderson was one of several speakers at the ARAS forum, which was MC’ed by Michelle Bentley, the Deputy Chairperson of ARAS.

Other speakers included 2021 Senior Australian of the Year and advocate, Richard Bruggemann; the CEO of ARAS, Carolanne Barkla; the CEO of Dementia Australia, Maree McCabe AM; Director of the Office for Ageing Well, Cassie Mason, and Group Customer Advocate at the Commonwealth Bank, Angela McMillan.

All presentations, including a recording of the Zoom session, can be found at the ARAS website, while more information about the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission’s Serious Incident Response Scheme can be found here.