This page details the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) for aged care providers. For information on SIRS for aged care consumers please visit the 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. SIRS sets new arrangements for approved providers of residential aged care to manage and take reasonable action to prevent incidents with a focus on the safety, health, well-being and quality of life of aged care consumers.
Approved providers are required to have in place an effective incident management system and to use this to continuously improve the management and prevention of incidents. Under SIRS, approved providers are required to report a broader range of incidents to the Commission than previous arrangements. Incidents must be reported within set timeframes depending on the level of impact to the care recipient. See ‘How does the SIRS work?’ section below for more details.
Why is the SIRS important?
All Australians have a right to live free from abuse and neglect. This is a human right, current law, and a reasonable community expectation. Older people also have specific rights when receiving government-subsidised aged care services.
The SIRS aims to:
- strengthen aged care systems to reduce the risk of abuse and neglect
- build providers’ skills so they can better respond to serious incidents
- enable providers to review incident information to drive improvements in quality and safety
- reduce the likelihood of preventable incidents from reoccurring
- ensure people receiving aged care have the support they need.
How does the SIRS work?
The SIRS has 2 key components:
- incident management obligations
- compulsory reporting obligations.
Incident management obligations
The SIRS requires every residential aged care service to have in place an effective incident management system – a set of protocols, processes, and standard operating procedures that staff are trained to use. This means adopting a systematic approach to minimise the risk of and respond to, incidents that occur in a residential care setting. An incident management system is vital in supporting residential age care services to effectively manage risks to their consumers, visitors and staff.
Compulsory reporting obligations
In addition to managing all incidents, approved providers will be required to report serious incidents involving aged care consumers to the Commission, and the police where the incident is of a criminal nature. This reporting includes incidents that occur, or are alleged or suspected to have occurred, and will include incidents involving a care recipient with cognitive or mental impairment (such as dementia).
What is a reportable incident?
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.
- 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 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.
- Neglect – includes withholding personal care, untreated wounds, or insufficient assistance during meals.
- 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.
‘Priority 1’ incidents must be reported to the Commission within 24 hours of becoming aware of the incident. This is a reportable incident where the incident has caused, or could reasonably have caused, a care recipient physical or psychological injury or discomfort that requires medical or psychological treatment to resolve, or where there are reasonable grounds to report the incident to police. Instances of unexplained absence from care and any unexpected death of a consumer are always to be regarded as Priority 1 reportable incidents.
'Priority 2’ incidents must be reported to the Commission within 30 days of becoming aware of the incident. This includes all other reportable incidents that do not meet the criteria for a ‘Priority 1’ incident.
How do I report an incident?
Providers must report incidents using a new tile on the My Aged Care Provider Portal. Providers should make sure enough staff have access to the portal to submit reports on time. For information on accessing the My Aged Care Provider Portal, including easy-to-use guides, visit the Department of Health website.
When did the SIRS commence?
The SIRS commenced on 1 April 2021.
From 1 April, providers of residential aged care must have in place an effective incident management system and are required to report all ‘Priority 1’ incidents to the Commission within 24 hours of becoming aware of the incident.
From 1 October 2021, residential aged care providers will also be required to report all ‘Priority 2’ incidents to the Commission within 30 days of becoming aware of the incident.
The role of the Commission under the SIRS
The Commission is responsible for administering the SIRS and receives serious incident reports from aged care providers. The Commission has the power to take regulatory action 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.
Guidance material for aged care providers
This guidance describes the responsibilities of providers in relation to the SIRS. It includes information on:
- the requirements relating to incident management, response, and prevention
- the types of incidents that must be notified to the Commission
- the requirements for making a notification, including what must be notified and when
- the role of the Commission in managing reports and ensuring providers are notifying and responding to reportable incidents.
This guidance provides information for providers to help them to develop and embed a best practice incident management system which enables them to respond to and manage specific incidents and near misses by assessing:
- what happened
- how and why it happened
- what can be done to reduce the risk of recurrence and support safer care
- what was learned
- how the learning can be shared.
The SIRS relates to other requirements aged care providers 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 (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 effective incident management.
For all SIRS resources, visit our dedicated SIRS resources page.
If you have an enquiry about the SIRS, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.