This factsheet will introduce you to the compulsory reporting scheme which is in place in the aged care sector, will explain the meaning of a reportable assault and the responsibilities of approved providers of residential aged care in handling reportable assaults and resident absences.
- Aged Care Act 1997 (Cth).
What happens if a resident is assaulted in an aged care facility or care? Is there an obligation to report this?
Yes,” the Act defines a category of assaults, named ‘reportable assaults’.
In the event of a reportable assault on a resident, the Act places a compulsory responsibility on aged-care organisations to make a report to the Department of Health and to the local police.
What is a reportable assault?
A reportable assault is either the unreasonable use of force on a resident, or unlawful sexual contact.
The unreasonable use of force may range from unwanted physical contact to violent attacks. This includes hitting, biting and kicking and does not have to leave marks or bruising on the resident to qualify.
Unlawful sexual contact is any non-consensual sexual content made on a resident. When determining if this has occurred, you should consider the individual resident’s mental capacity to consent to, and to refuse, sexual activity.
Does a staff member need to have witnessed the assault?
No,” the Act applies to both suspicions and allegations of assault.
If a staff member suspects that a reportable assault has taken place, then it is also compulsory to make a report.
If a staff member has been told about an assault, but has not witnessed it, a report must still be made.
How should a report be made?
Once a staff member is made aware of the reportable assault, they should report this to their organisation’s most senior staff member, who will report the conduct.
The report must be made to the local police and the Department of Health. To make a report to the Department of Health, you may either download and complete a reportable assault form (accessed here: https://agedcare.health.gov.au/ensuring-quality/aged-care-quality-and-compliance/compulsory-reporting-for-approved-providers/reportable-assaults-report) or may phone the Compulsory Reporting line on 1800 081 549. If phoning outside of business hours, you may make a report.
Can an employee make a report without informing the organisation or other senior level management?
Yes, if an employee does not feel comfortable reporting the assault to their employer, they may make a report directly to the police and the Department of Health.
Under the Act, an employer is prohibited from taking any retaliatory actions towards the employee for making this disclosure, including firing the employee.
Are there any exceptions to this?
Yes, if the assault has already been correctly reported, there is no need to make multiple reports.
There is also an exception where a resident is assaulted by another resident who has prior to the assault been diagnosed with a cognitive or mental impairment. In this case, if the organisation documents the assault, develops and implements strategies to manage the behaviour of the resident who committed the assault within 24 hours, the assault is not required to be reported.
Do aged-care organisations need to keep records about reportable assaults?
Yes, under the Records Principles 2014, aged-care organisations are obliged to keep a record of all incidences of allegations or suspicions of reportable assaults.
For each incident, the date of the allegation/suspicion must be noted, as well as a brief summary of the circumstances about the allegation/suspicion and whether or not a report was made to the police and the Department of Health.
Are there any other circumstances in which an aged-care organisation will need to make a report to the police and the Department of Health?
If a resident becomes missing and the organisation is unaware why they are absent, if within a reasonable timeframe the resident is not located, this absence must be reported to the police within a reasonable timeframe.
After reporting the absence to the police, within 24 hours of making the report, the organisation is required to inform the Department of Health about the resident’s absence. This applies regardless of whether the police are able to locate the resident within the 24 hour timeframe.
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