This page details the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) for aged care consumers. For information on the SIRS for aged care providers, please visit the SIRS providers information page.
What is the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS)?
As an aged care consumer, you have the right to safe and quality care and to live without abuse or neglect.
The Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) is a new Government initiative to help reduce the risk of abuse and neglect for people living or staying in a residential aged care home.
The scheme 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 requires every residential aged care service to have in place an effective incident management system – a documented set of protocols, processes, and standard operating procedures – to manage all incidents, respond to incidents, and take steps to make sure they do not happen again. The incident management system covers a broader range of non-reportable incidents and includes incidents that involve staff or visitors.
Why the SIRS is important
The SIRS requires every residential aged care service to adopt a systematic approach to minimising the risk of and responding to, serious incidents involving residents. SIRS and the requirement for providers to have an effective incident management system in place will:
- reduce the chance of you being subject to abuse or neglect in aged care
- help you access support sooner and on an ongoing basis if a serious incident affects you
- reduce the likelihood of the serious incident happening again.
The SIRS also introduces explicit obligations for providers to report a broader range of serious incidents to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (Commission) than was previously required under compulsory reporting obligations. This includes reports of all incidents that are alleged or suspected to have occurred, or witnessed, between consumers of an aged care service, including where the consumer who commits the incident has a cognitive or mental impairment (such as dementia).
Definition of a reportable incident under the SIRS
Reportable incidents include those listed below.
- Unreasonable use of force – for example, hitting, pushing, shoving, or rough handling.
- Unlawful sexual contact or inappropriate sexual conduct – such as sexual threats or stalking, or sexual activities without consent.
- Neglect – for example, withholding personal care, untreated wounds, or insufficient assistance during meals.
- Psychological or emotional abuse – such as yelling, name calling, ignoring a consumer, threatening gestures, or refusing a consumer access to care or services as a means of punishment.
- Unexpected death – where poor quality clinical care is provided to a consumer resulting in their death, or where the actions of a consumer result in the death of another consumer.
- Stealing or financial coercion by a staff member – for example, if a staff member coerces a consumer to change their will to their advantage, or steals valuables from the consumer.
- Inappropriate physical or chemical restraint – where physical or chemical restraint is used without prior consent or without notifying the consumer’s representative as soon as practicable; where physical restraint is used in a non-emergency situation; or when a provider issues a drug to a consumer to influence their behaviour as a form of chemical restraint.
- Unexplained absence from care – where the consumer is absent from the service without explanation and there are reasonable grounds to report the absence to the police.
Under the SIRS, an allegation, suspicion, or witness account of any of the above serious incidents must be reported to the Commission.
Reporting to the Commission
The SIRS commenced on 1 April 2021.
Residential aged care providers must now report all ‘Priority 1’ reportable incidents to the Commission within 24 hours of becoming aware of the incident. ‘Priority 1’ reportable incidents include those that cause or could reasonably have been expected to have caused physical or psychological injury or discomfort requiring some form of medical or psychological treatment, or where there are reasonable grounds to report the incident to police. All reportable incidents involving instances of unexplained absence from care and any unexpected death of a consumer are always to be regarded as Priority 1 reportable incidents.
From 1 October 2021, all ‘Priority 2’ reportable incidents that do not meet the criteria for ‘Priority 1’ must also be reported within 30 days.
The SIRS relates to other requirements your aged care provider must meet
The SIRS sits alongside, and complements, other requirements that aged care providers must meet.
All providers must comply with the Aged Care Quality Standards which detail the standards of care a person can expect as an aged care consumer. For example:
- Standard 8: Organisational governance – requires approved providers to have in place effective risk management systems and practices that enable them (among other things) to manage high-impact risks associated with the care of consumers, and to identify and respond to abuse and neglect of consumers.
- Standard 6: Feedback and complaints – requires approved providers to demonstrate that an open disclosure process is used when things go wrong in providing care for consumers.
A provider is also legally required to help consumers understand their rights under the Charter of Aged Care Rights.
Taken together, the above requirements reinforce the importance of aged care providers having an effective incident management system in place.
Incident management systems
An incident management system is a set of processes and procedures used to prevent, manage, and respond to incidents. This system should support an aged care provider and their staff to take appropriate action when there is an alleged, suspected, or witnessed incident.
Appropriate action includes:
- action to remove consumer/s from harm and to reduce or address the impact on any consumer/s
- identification and immediate internal reporting of the allegation, suspicion, or witnessed incident
- documenting the incident
- further investigation if warranted
- reporting to external authorities within statutory timeframes, including the police and the Commission.
The role of the Commission under the SIRS
The Commission is responsible for administering the SIRS and receives serious incident notices from aged care providers. The Commission has the power to take regulatory action(s) where appropriate to address non-compliance with provider responsibilities and has new powers to issue compliance notices for suspected non-compliance with SIRS obligations.
The Commission will publish information regularly on the operation of the SIRS, and this information will be expanded over time.
Visit our dedicated SIRS consumer resources page.
Make a complaint about care or services you or someone else is receiving
Complaints are important because they can help your aged care service improve the quality of care and services they provide to you. Your complaint can help other people too.
If you feel comfortable, you can raise your concern with the staff or managers at your aged care service first, as this is often the best way to have your concerns resolved. All aged care providers are required to have a complaints system in place. If this doesn’t work or you don’t feel comfortable, the Commission can support you to resolve your concern with your aged care provider.
The Commission provides a free service for anyone to raise a concern or make a complaint about the quality of care or services provided to people receiving Australian Government funded aged care. Find out more at agedcarequality.gov.au or call 1800 951 822.
Accessing the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN)
OPAN supports older persons and their representatives to effectively access and interact with Australian Government funded aged care services and have their rights protected. OPAN is made up of nine state- and territory-based service delivery organisations. You can call OPAN on 1800 700 600 or visit opan.com.au.