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Landmark aged care report outlines urgent reform agenda items

A landmark review has called for new laws requiring aged care providers to report any allegations or suspicion of abuse or neglect to an independent body. The Australian Law Reform Commission also wants improved screening of aged care workers and the regulated use of restrictive practices.

They are among several recommendations in a report, tabled in parliament on Wednesday 14 June 2017, following an inquiry into the abuse of older Australians.

Central to its proposed changes is the development of a national plan, to be used as the basis for the ongoing protection of older people from abuse. It has also called for a study to determine how prevalent abuse is among the elderly nationwide, to which the federal government has already committed.

The issue was complex and required a multi-faceted response, the report said.

It noted that older people receiving aged care, whether it’s at home or in residential facilities, may experience abuse or neglect from staff, other residents, family members or friends.

The commission recommends introducing new laws to establish a serious incident response scheme, requiring approved providers to notify an independent oversight body of an allegation or a suspicion of a serious incident.

The body would monitor and oversee the provider’s investigation and have the power to conduct its own investigation of serious incidents.

The outcome of an investigation into an incident, including findings and action taken, must also be reported. The report also recommends enhancing employment screening processes and ensuring unregistered staff are subject to a national code of conduct.

Other recommendations include:

  • Allowing tribunals to resolve family disputes involving agreements to provide care in exchange for residential property.
  • A national coordinated response to improving lawyers’ understanding of the potential for elder abuse using wills.
  • Changing the code of banking practice to require banks to take reasonable steps to identify and prevent the financial abuse of vulnerable customers.
  • Requiring private guardians and private financial administrators to sign an undertaking about their obligations and responsibilities.
  • The development of an elder abuse strategy by the Department of Human Services.
  • Introducing adult safeguarding laws in each state and territory to help protect other vulnerable Australians from abuse.
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