Elder abuse and investigation of serious reportable incidents
Institutional elder abuse is sadly a significant issue in Australia. The recently completed Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, as well as the ongoing Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, have shone the spotlight on the distressing and all too common instances of abuse of vulnerable populations in care.
Serious reportable incidents
One of the most significant changes because of the Aged Care Royal Commission has been the establishment of the Serious Incident Response Scheme. This scheme requires aged care workers and providers to formally report of a broader range of incidents than was previously required. It has been in effect since April 2021.
Under the SIRS, there are 8 types of reportable incidents:
• Unreasonable use of force
• Unlawful sexual contact or inappropriate sexual conduct
• Neglect of a consumer
• Psychological or emotional abuse
• Unexpected death
• Stealing or financial coercion by a staff member
• Inappropriate use of restrictive practices
• Unexplained absence from care
Any of these incidents is likely to trigger an investigation.
Unexpected deaths and the coronial process
In the event of an unexpected death. Service providers need to conduct a client death review and the case referred to the coroner who will be responsible for investigating the circumstances surrounding the death.
Coroner’s investigations make an invaluable contribution to reducing the incidence of preventable deaths, such as those caused because of institutional abuse. The Coronial process is vital to identify deaths attributable to abuse which may otherwise slip through the cracks.
Understanding what happens during the coronial investigation process, and the role each team member plays in this process, can help make the process less stressful for families, care workers and other staff.