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Missing consumers

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For information related to residential care please refer to unexplained absence from care.

A 'missing consumer'

Under the SIRS, a missing consumer is a consumer who goes missing or not present in the course of a service delivering a scheduled service or care to that consumer, and there are reasonable grounds to contact the police.

You must notify the Commission when:

  • a consumer goes missing during or directly after care and
  • you are not aware of any reason for the absence and
  • there are reasonable grounds to contact the police. 
Examples of missing consumers include:
  • a worker takes a consumer to the shops, and the consumer goes missing during the outing
  • a consumer goes missing while in overnight respite
  • a consumer goes missing while receiving care at a day therapy centre, receiving transport services, or on a scheduled outing with the service
  • a consumer goes missing while a staff member is delivering care and services in the consumer’s home, and there is reason for concern (e.g. the consumer could be harmed if they are wandering alone).
Examples of consumers not considered missing include:
  • a consumer is absent for a scheduled visit by a worker (and there is no reason for concern). However, in situations where there are reasons for concern, workers should alert their service to the consumer's unexpected absence. The service should follow this up in line with the procedures agreed upon and reflected in the care plan of the consumer.
  • a consumer leaves their home on a planned outing while a provider is providing maintenance services (and there are no reasonable grounds to contact the police).

Work tool

The SIRS Decision Support Tool can help you explore what kinds of incidents are missing consumers.

Vulnerable consumers

Some consumers are at a higher risk of going missing. These include consumers who: 

  • receive respite care 
  • have a history of wandering 
  • live with dementia.

If a consumer needs behaviour support, it is good practice to include a behaviour support plan as part of the consumer’s care and services plan.

Responding to a missing consumer incident

When an incident happens, your first priority is always to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your consumer. 

Responding to a missing consumer incident could involve: 

  • searching for the consumer
  • notifying the consumer’s family to assist in the search
  • contacting the police within a reasonable timeframe.

While managing the incident, you must continue to provide support and information to the consumer’s family and/or representatives about the steps you are taking to respond to the incident.

All missing consumer incidents are Priority 1 reportable incidents and must be reported to the Commission within 24 hours.

Reporting a missing consumer

A missing consumer, like any reportable incident, must be recorded in your IMS and the Commission must be notified.

A quality incident notification requires more than simply transcribing the details from progress notes about the incident or copying text from your IMS. You must provide the Commission with as much detail as possible about the incident to enable an assessment of your response.

It is important that the person making the notification is familiar with:

  • what happened

  • when the incident happened

  • where the incident happened

  • who was involved including the affected consumer, worker(s) involved in the incident and other affected people

  • what actions were taken after the incident

  • what caused the incident (if known)

  • what changes will be made as a result of the incident (if known).

If you become aware of further information after submitting an initial notification, you should update the Commission. 

When you provide clear and comprehensive information early on, it is less likely that the Commission will need to: 

  • ask for further details 
  • require you to conduct an investigation
  • directly investigate the matter itself. 

 

Tip

It is easier to make a good quality notification to the Commission if you have the information you need.

Educating workers to report incidents correctly within your IMS will make it easier to notify the Commission when a reportable incident happens. 

Work tools

The fact sheet, Reportable incidents: missing consumers, provides more detailed guidance for reporting incidents in a home or community setting relating to this type of reportable incident.

Contact us

If you have a question about the SIRS, you can call us on 1800 081 549. This phone line is open 9 am to 5 pm (AEST) Monday to Sunday.

You can also email us at sirs@agedcarequality.gov.au.

Facilitated workshops

The Commission provides facilitated workshops to sector participants. All current workshops are available on the Commission’s Workshop page.

Online learning

The Commission’s Aged Care Learning Information Solution, Alis provides free online education for employees of Commonwealth-funded aged care providers, including a module covering missing consumers.

You can access Alis at learning.agedcarequality.gov.au.

Disclaimer

The information contained on this page is intended to provide you with general guidance; however, it is your responsibility to be aware of your legislative requirements.