The Federal Government’s latest report on the operation of Australia’s Aged Care Act has found reportable physical or sexual assaults on permanent aged care residents rose more than 11 percent in one year.
The report outlines the number of reportable assaults and the overall number of complaints made to the government's Aged Care Complaints Scheme.
“In 2014–15, the Department received 2,625 notifications of reportable assaults. Of those, 2,199 were recorded as alleged or suspected unreasonable use of force, 379 as alleged or suspected unlawful sexual contact, and 47 as both,” the report said.
In the previous year’s report, there were 2,353 notifications of reportable assaults. That’s a rise of 11.65 percent in just a year, a figure that has alarmed aged care advocates.
“That is only assaults from people who are professionally associated with nursing homes, with visitors,” senior research and advocacy adviser at Combined Pensioners and Superannuation Association (CPSA), Paul Versteege, told the ABC’s PM program.
“Resident on resident assaults are not even recorded let alone reported. You really wonder why it doesn't get the same attention as child abuse.”
With a population of people in permanent residential care in 2014-15 sitting at just over 230,000, 1.1 percent of those people have reported sexual or physical abuse.
“This reportable assault statistic for nursing homes is frightening and unacceptably high,” the CPSA said in a statement.
The CPSA has criticised the Federal Government for releasing what it sees as an “invisible” report. No departmental or ministerial press release was sent out to highlight the publication of the report.
“CPSA calls on the Australian Government and the Minister for Aged Care to stop the trend of providing cover for the nursing home industry,” Versteege said in a statement.
Concerns have also been raised about the rate at which complaints of assault lead to compliance action being taken against residential care homes.
Australia’s Council on the Ageing Chief Executive Ian Yates told the ABC he believed complaints would be more effectively dealt with once the independent Office of the Aged Care Commissioner takes over from the Department of Social Services and Health.
“We've been arguing for it to move into a statutory role for many years and we're very pleased that the Government is doing that. We think it will lead to a different culture of handling complaints,” he said.