This page details the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) for aged care providers. For information on Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) for aged care consumers please visit this consumer information page.
What is the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS)?
The Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) is a new initiative to help prevent and reduce incidents of abuse and neglect in residential aged care services subsidised by the Australian Government.
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.
Aged care providers also need to have in place an effective incident management system 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.
Subject to decisions by the Federal Parliament, the SIRS is expected to commence from 1 April 2021. Under this scheme, residential aged care providers will be required to do everything possible to reduce the risk of serious incidents involving consumers, and if a serious incident does occur, to manage it effectively and report it to the Commission. Providers will also be expected to put in place measures to minimise the risk of a preventable incident recurring.
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 consumers. The core of this systematic approach is a set of protocols, processes, and standard operating procedures – described as an incident management system – which providers train their staff to use. An incident management system is vital in supporting residential age care services to effectively manage risks to their consumers.
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 is currently 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).
Serious 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 – includes 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 – in the event of a fall, untreated pressure injury, or the actions of a consumer result in the death of another consumer.
- Stealing or 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 – for example, 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 – this occurs when the consumer is absent from the service, it is unexplained and has been reported 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.
The role of the Commission under the SIRS
The Commission will be responsible for administering the SIRS and will receive serious incident reports from aged care providers. The Commission will have the power to take regulatory action where appropriate to address non-compliance with provider responsibilities and will have 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.
How the SIRS relates to other requirements an aged care provider must meet
The SIRS will reduce the risk of abuse and neglect for people living in residential aged care homes. 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 relates to other requirements your aged care provider must meet
The SIRS will sit alongside, and complement, 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 (among other things) 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.
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 the 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 Commission is working to develop guidance materials and other resources to support aged care providers with understanding the requirements.
• What is the SIRS? A fact sheet for aged care providers (download)
• What is the SIRS? A fact sheet for aged care consumers (download)
All SIRS resources can also be found in our resource library.
As part of the SIRS, residential aged care providers will be required to report and manage all serious incidents which impact on the safety and wellbeing of consumers and put in place measures to reduce the likelihood of a preventable incident happening again. The range of serious incidents that are reportable under SIRS is broader than those reported under current compulsory reporting requirements (refer to ‘Definition of a serious incident under the SIRS’ above. Click here to read.
Importantly, providers will have to report incidents of abuse and aggression between consumers, including where the consumer who commits the incident has a cognitive or mental impairment.
How do I report a serious incident?
Prior to the introduction of the SIRS, aged care providers are responsible for reporting suspicions or allegations of reportable assaults occurring at their services to the Commission by submitting a .
Department of Health website
The Commission is working with the Department of Health as part of the implementation of the SIRS. More information about the SIRS is also available on the Department of Health website:
- – This paper sets out the structure and operation of the SIRS for residential aged care and flexible care delivered in a residential aged care setting.
- – detailed information about the SIRS.