What is the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS)?
Published: 10 March 2021
Published: 10 March 2021
In April 2021, a new federal government initiative known as the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) will commence, aiming to reduce the risk of abuse and neglect in Commonwealth funded residential aged care (Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission 2020).
The SIRS expands upon the protections to older adults in residential aged care currently offered by the Aged Care Act 1997.
Under the Aged Care Act 1997, residential aged care providers are required to report alleged, suspected or actual reportable assaults to the police and Department of Health. This must be done within 24 hours of either an allegation or reasonable suspicion that a reportable assault has occurred (Department of Health 2019). ‘Reportable assaults’ include:
Notably, neglect, inappropriate physical and chemical restraint, intentional and reckless staff behaviour, and poor personal care are not listed as types of reportable assault under the Act (Ma 2020).
Furthermore, there are two situations in which residential aged care providers are not required to report a reportable assault, these being:
(DoH 2019; Ma 2020)
Due to these exemptions, along with the narrow definition of ‘reportable assault’, there is concern that potentially-serious incidents are ‘falling through the gaps’, with the exact nature and frequency of these events unknown. Therefore, current legislation may not offer enough protection for older adults in residential aged care (DoH 2019; Ma 2020).
The SIRS was established based on recommendations from the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC). The ALRC proposed that reportable incidents should be expanded to include situations that are not specified in the Aged Care Act 1997 and that greater emphasis should be placed on investigating and responding to incidents rather than simply reporting their occurrence (DoH 2019).
Under the SIRS, Commonwealth funded residential aged care providers will be required to
all serious incidents, as well as take appropriate steps to prevent similar incidents from occurring again in the future. The SIRS also requires providers to put into practice an incident management system (DoH 2020).
The SIRS aims to ensure that service providers deliver safe and effective care, and that consumers are adequately supported if an incident does occur. Through the implementation of an effective incident management system, providers should be able to respond to incidents more appropriately, provide consumers with access to support and continuously improve their services (ACQSC 2020; DoH 2019).
The SIRS will sit alongside the Aged Care Quality Standards, Charter of Aged Care Rights and Open Disclosure Framework and Guidance to ensure that service providers are held responsible for managing incidents that occur in their facilities (DoH 2020).
Underpinning the SIRS is the importance of establishing an effective incident management system. This system should comprise processes and procedures for:
(ACQSC 2020; DoH 2020b)
It is your responsibility to read and fully understand your facility’s incident management systems and SIRS policies and procedures.
The SIRS defines a serious, reportable incident as incidents that have either
The incident also must have affected a consumer and was perpetrated by either a
(DoH 2020a, b; ACQSC 2021)
And the incident must have occurred in connection with the provision of residential care (or flexible care provided in a residential setting) (ACQSC 2021).
Any allegation, suspicion or witness account of the following will be required to be reported to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission:
|Unreasonable use of force||
|Unlawful sexual contact or inappropriate sexual conduct||
|Psychological or emotional abuse||
|Stealing or coercion by staff||
|Inappropriate restraint (physical or chemical)||
(ACQSC 2020; DoH 2020b)
Providers are not required to report an incident if:
Under the SIRS, the period of time within which to notify a reportable incident to the Commission will depend on how the incident is categorised by your organisation.
Starting from the 1st of April 2021, providers are required to notify the Commision of Priority 1 incidents within 24 hours.
Priority 1 incidents are assessed as a reportable incident:
Starting from the 1st of October 2021, providers will also be required to notify the Commission of Priority 2 incidents within 30 days.
The Commission describes Priority 2 incidents as a reportable incident that ‘results in a low level of harm to a consumer … where the consumer is momentarily shaken or upset … [or] where medical or psychological treatment for the consumer is nor required’ (ACQSC 2021).
Additionally, in cases where the category is difficult to determine, SIRS guidance suggests that the incident should be treated as Priority 1.
The SIRS requires a formal notification be lodged with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission digitally via the My Aged Care service provider portal. Depending on your organisation’s SIRS policy and incident management system, the person responsible for filing this form may change from provider to provider, however, all staff have a duty to recognise and report serious incidents as soon as they become aware of them.
A sample SIRS notification form is available at: https://www.agedcarequality.gov.au/sites/default/files/media/sirs-guidelines-june-2021.pdf
SIRS guidance states that providers should encourage a culture of accountability and that staff feel confident reporting incidents to the appropriate person.
Raising concerns about a serious incident directly with management is encouraged, however, any staff member is also able to raise a concern directly to the Commission.
If a reportable incident causes harm to a participant of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) or occurs during the provision of support or services by an NDIS provider, the provider is required to notify the Commission (ACQSC 2021).
If a consumer who is both a residential aged care recipient and an NDIS participant is involved in a reportable incident under the SIRS, both the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission must be notified (ACQSC 2021).
Note that the definition of a reportable incident, as well as required reporting timeframes and required information to be reported may differ between the SIRS and then NDIS. More information about the NDIS requirements can be found in Reportable incidents: Detailed Guidance for Registered NDIS Providers (ACQSC 2021).
There are also a number of ‘whistleblower’ protections afforded to those who report serious incidents under the Aged Care Act, that have been expanded with SIRS. These include:
However, in order to be protected under SIRS, the following conditions must be met:
If someone makes a report to you, it is your responsibility to protect the discloser’s identity (except from key personnel, the Commission or the police, or if revealing their identity is required by law).
For more information on the Serious Incident Response Scheme and any of the information mentioned in this article, visit: https://www.agedcarequality.gov.au/sites/default/files/media/sirs-guidelines-june-2021.pdf.
Question 1 of 2
True or false? As of 1 April 2021, under the Serious Incident Response Scheme reportable incidents include those that are caused by consumers with cognitive or mental impairments.
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