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Tens of thousands of serious incidents were reported to the aged care watchdog under a new scheme established to prevent and reduce abuse and neglect in residential facilities.

More than 37,800 “serious incident notifications” were received by the Age Well Quality and Safety Commission during the last financial year, according to data published in a report by the Productivity Commission assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of key government services.

Most notifications were related to the unreasonable use of force.

The Serious Incident Response Scheme was introduced in mid-2021 and requires federal government subsidised residential aged care services to systematically report incidents including neglect, psychological or emotional abuse, financial coercion by staff, restrictive practices, and inappropriate sexual conduct.

Frighteningly, the report notes however, that the number of notifications received “does not necessarily correlate to the number of instances of harm to an older person in aged care”.

“Reports might include multiple notifications of the same matter, allegations of incidents, and situations where incidents occurred but injury was avoided, or not everything is being reported” the report states.

Quality standards unmet by many providers

During this same period, the Age Well Quality and Safety Commission received more than 10,300 complaints, while published data also shows a declining number of providers were issued top-tier re-accreditation status.

The report released by the Productivity Commission sheds new light on the problem-plagued aged care sector, with less than half of the residential aged care sites audited in New South Wales (NSW) last financial year meeting standards for personal and clinical care.

Since 2019 Commonwealth subsidised aged care providers have been marked on their compliance with eight “quality standards”.

In 2021-22 only 62 per cent of residential aged care sites nationally achieved the benchmark for personal and clinical care, 68 per cent for organisational governance, 70 per cent for human resources and 86 per cent for consumer dignity and choice.

The figures from Australia’s largest state are more alarming, with only 46 per cent of the 184 sites reviewed in NSW meeting requirements for safe and effective personal care, while just over half were deemed to have a skilled and qualified workforce to meet consumer needs.

The report also notes that the amount spent on aged care per “older person” decreased slightly to $5,570 compared to $5,594 the year before.