Ageing and Adult Safeguarding Act 1995 (DHW 2021-22 Annual Report)

Part 2 - Office for Ageing Well

11 – Annual Report

  1. The Director must, on or before
    31 October in each year, report to the Minister on the operations of the Office for Ageing Well during the preceding financial year.
  2. The Minister must, within 6 sitting days after receiving a report from the Director, have copies of the report laid before both Houses of Parliament.

Part 3 - Adult Safeguarding Unit

17- Annual Report

  1. The Director must, on or before
    31 October in each year, report to the Minister on the operations of the Adult Safeguarding Unit during the preceding financial year.
  2. The Minister must, within 6 sitting days after receiving a report under this section, have copies of the report laid before both Houses of Parliament.
  3. A report under this section may be combined with the annual report of the Office for Ageing Well under section 11.

Office for Ageing Well, established under the Ageing and Adult Safeguarding Act 1995, is in the Department for Health and Wellbeing. Under this Act, the Office for Ageing Well’s objectives include:

  • supporting South Australians of all ages to age well, unencumbered by stigma and discrimination.
  • achieving proper integration of older persons within the community,
  • ensuring that the skills and experience of older people are not lost to the community through social alienation.
  • creating social structures in which older people can realise their full potential as individuals and as members of the community.
  • creating a social ethos in which older people are accorded the dignity, appreciation and respect that properly belong to them.
  • ensuring the multicultural nature of the community is reflected in the planning and implementation of programs and services relevant to older people; and
  • achieving a proper understanding within the community of the problems affecting older people and vulnerable adults and ameliorating those problems so far as it is practicable to do so by modification of social structures and attitudes.

To achieve its objectives, Office for Ageing Well led the development of policies and delivered a range of programs and projects during 2021-22, in partnership with a diverse range of stakeholders and in line with the priorities of the South Australian Government’s health and wellbeing agenda and shaped directly by the voices of older South Australians.

To achieve the Act’s objectives, Office for Ageing Well is comprised of the following business units and programs:

  • Adult Safeguarding Unit
  • Ageing Policy Unit
  • Aged Care Strategy Unit
  • Seniors Card Program
  • Community Grants Program
  • Retirement Villages Unit

In 2021-2022, following a selected tender process, the South Australian Law Reform Institute (SALRI) commenced an independent review of the Ageing and Adult Safeguarding Act 1995, as required under section 53 of the Act to be conducted and reported on before 1 October 2022.

A state-wide public consultation was held between 16 May and 30 June 2022, with the final report due to the Minister by 30 September 2022.

Adult Safeguarding Unit

The Adult Safeguarding Unit (ASU) commenced operation on 1 October 2019. Key functions include:

  • raising community awareness of prevention strategies to safeguard the rights of adults who may be at risk of abuse.
  • providing confidential information and advice to callers concerned about themselves or someone who may be vulnerable to abuse.
  • responding to reports of suspected or actual abuse of adults who may be vulnerable to abuse.
  • providing support to safeguard the rights of adults experiencing abuse, tailored to their needs, wishes and circumstances.

Community Awareness and Prevention

In 2021-22, ASU delivered 36 presentations to diverse stakeholders and community groups, including older people and people with a disability, and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. These engagements were focussed on raising community awareness of prevention strategies that may assist to safeguard the rights of older adults and adults living with a disability.

Reporting and responding to abuse or mistreatment

In 2021-2022, the ASU continued its strong focus on promoting and safeguarding the rights of older adults and adults living with disability by responding to reports of actual or suspected abuse and working with the adult and their supports to implement safeguarding actions, tailored to their needs, wishes and circumstances. When assessing reports of abuse, the ASU obtains as much information as possible to determine the appropriate next steps, which under the legislation must be to: refer the matter to a more appropriate agency for response; investigate the situation further; or close the matter for no further action. In most situations, a person’s consent is required before any further action can be taken.

Reporting abuse to the ASU is voluntary. The ASU has a dedicated phone line for the public to seek information, advice and support about adult safeguarding or to make reports of suspected abuse or mistreatment of older people or adults living with disability.

Of the 2,269 phone calls received in 2021-22:

  • 1,114 resulted in a formal report to ASU and the remaining 1,155 calls were for information and advice only. Of the 1,114 calls that became reports: 247 (22.2 per cent) are currently in the assessment phase; 74 (6.6 per cent) were recommended for investigation; eight (0.7 per cent) did not fall within remit but were recommended for a duty of care response; four (0.4 per cent) were referred to another agency; and the remaining 781 (70.1 per cent) were recommended for no further action following an assessment of the situation. 
  • Following assessment, there were a number of reasons why no further action was recommended, including: the situation was being appropriately managed by other parties already involved with supporting the adult and no additional input from the ASU was required; there was no abuse or mistreatment identified; the ASU provided support/advice to a service provider or other person to implement safeguards for the person and no further ASU input was required; a more appropriate statutory response was implemented by the ASU; or no further assistance was required or consented to by the person themselves.
  • There were 579 calls (25.5 per cent) related to suspected abuse of adults living with disability, of which 318 (54.9 per cent) resulted in a report to ASU; 1,464 calls (64.5 per cent) related to concerns of abuse of older people, with 796 (54.4 per cent) of those calls resulting in a report to ASU; and in the remaining 226 (10.0 per cent) calls, insufficient information was provided to determine if the call related to abuse of a person living with disability or older people.
  • In relation to older adults, the most frequent calls were received from adult sons and daughters and other family members (26.8 per cent), followed by service providers (25.8 per cent). The most common types of abuse reported were psychological / emotional (45.4 per cent), financial or exploitation (38.6 per cent), neglect (21.4 per cent) and physical (16.8 per cent). Adult sons (27.2 per cent) and daughters (19.0 per cent) of older people were most often reported as the person of concern.
  • In relation to adults with a disability, the most frequent calls were received from service providers (59.9 per cent), followed by family members (7.1 per cent). The most prevalent types of abuse reported were psychological / emotional (36.1 per cent), financial or exploitation (28.8 per cent) and neglect (25.2 per cent). The mother (15.5 per cent) and service providers (10.7 per cent) were most often reported as the person of concern.

There were a considerable number of informal referrals made by the ASU to a broad range of agencies during and following an assessment. Where a person did not/was not able to consent to ASU’s involvement, and where there were specific concerns warranting further action, the ASU acted without consent to ensure the person’s safety. This included where: a person’s life or physical safety was at immediate risk; there was an allegation that a serious criminal offence had been, or was likely to be, committed against the person; the person had impaired decision-making capacity in respect of a decision to consent to an action; or, after reasonable enquiries, the ASU was unable to contact the person.

Where safeguarding was undertaken, the ASU played an important role in supporting the adult to act in line with their wishes and circumstances. Examples of safeguarding actions included: moving to safer, alternate accommodation; applying for an Intervention Order or making a report to South Australia Police; completing or changing legal documents such as an Enduring Power of Attorney or Advance Care Directive; changing banking details; engaging formal support services (including in home supports funded through NDIS or My Aged Care); engaging informal supports; and directly addressing concerns with the person undertaking the abuse while attempting to ensure the preservation of important relationships. ASU practitioners also provided safeguarding information and advice and coordinated multi-agency responses where a range of services were involved.

Ageing Policy Unit

South Australia’s Plan for Ageing Well 2020-2025 (the Plan) was released on
1 July 2020, following significant statewide consultation in 2018-19 and 2019-20 by Office for Ageing Well with a diverse range of older South Australians and other stakeholders.

The Plan outlines a vision and sets out strategic priorities for ageing well for all South Australians. Action is focussed on the areas of Home and community; Meaningful connections; and Navigating change.

In 2021-22, the Ageing Policy Unit directly funded, managed or collaborated on 48 projects, in partnership with a broad range of stakeholders from government, non-government and community sectors, including:

  • Partnered with COTA SA’s Rainbow Hub Advisory group to co-design and test a LGBTI+ Compassionate Communities model to support older LGBTI+ people at or approaching the end of their life. 
  • Partnered with the Office of the Public Advocate to provide tools and educational workshops for people appointed as Substitute Decision Makers under an Advance Care Directives to understand their role and responsibilities.
  • Partnered with the Cities of Victor Harbour, Alexandrina and Yankalilla and Cities of Charles Sturt, West Torrens and Pt Adelaide/Enfield to deliver a sustainable community peer-led model to increase the completion of Advance Care Directives.
  • Partnered with The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) to undertake a state-wide consultation to inform the new Strategy to Safeguard the Rights of Older South Australians 2022-2027 (Strategy), to be launched in the second half of 2022.
  • Launched the first state-wide Elder Abuse Prevention Tackling Ageism public awareness campaign, which ran from 15 June until 27 July via digital and social media, metropolitan and regional radio, press, WeekendPlus – the Seniors Card digital magazine, and Shopper Media. The campaign aimed to raise community awareness that ageism takes away older people’s rights and can lead to abuse or mistreatment.
  • Commissioned URPS to undertake benchmarking data collection, to test the Ageing Well Measuring Success Framework, developed through a co-design process with older people and other stakeholders. Measures included community survey, ABS data and project partner self-assessment.

Aged Care Strategy Unit

The Aged Care Strategy Unit administers the Aged Care Assessment Programme (ACAP) in South Australia on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. The ACAP comprehensively assesses the needs of older people to enable access to Commonwealth Government funded aged care services.

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, South Australian ACAP performed well against required timeliness and quality indicators in 2021-22. South Australia actioned 99.5 per cent of all referrals within three calendar days, exceeding the National Key Performance Indicator target. South Australia endeavoured to maintain timely performance in the completion of assessments across all settings, with the average number of days currently at 30.1 days, compared to 26.5 days nationally in 2021-22. The ACAP operations have been impacted by COVID-19, however, as of 30 June 2022, Aged Care Assessment Teams actioned 25,824 referrals and completed 17,042 assessments across South Australia.

The Aged Care Strategy Unit also progressed a range of strategic projects in 2021-22:

  • Chaired the Specialised Aged Care Reform Program Steering Committee to progress the program of work associated with developing and implementing a streamed and layered model of care for people with dementia and enduring mental illness. The Aged Care Strategy Unit worked closely with the Commonwealth on the implementation of the Specialised Dementia Care Units and the development of a National Dementia Plan.
  • Completed the SA Health CCTV Pilot. The 12-month Pilot was an Australian first to explore the acceptability and viability of using audio visual surveillance technology in two residential care facilities operated by SA Health. The pilot was undertaken at Mount Pleasant Aged Care and at Northgate House, with recording devices installed in all common areas and bedrooms of consenting residents. The pilot trialled the use of Artificial Intelligence to detect pre-programmed adverse events, sending an alert to an independent monitoring centre, which then contacted the site. It was jointly funded by the Commonwealth and the South Australian Government to test the acceptability and feasibility of using this type of technology in aged care, including its impact on the safety and quality of care of residents. The pilot was completed in March 2022 and independently evaluated by PricewaterhouseCoopers, with the Evaluation Report to be released in 2022-23.

Seniors Card Program

The Seniors Card Program supports social and economic participation of older people and their connectedness to the community. It contributes to making South Australia an affordable place to live by increasing access to free public transport, providing important information about community news, events and services. It also delivers discounts and benefits from participating businesses. There are around 400,000 registered Seniors Card members in South Australia.

Benefits of the Seniors Card program are communicated to members in a variety of ways, including the Seniors Card Discount Directory, direct marketing (post and email), and promotion through partners, social media, WeekendPlus, a fortnightly digital magazine for Seniors Card members and the new Seniors Card website. In 2021-22, subscription to email communication increased by 25 percent to 125,000. Of the approximately 20,000 new Seniors Card applications received in 2021-22, more than 90 per cent were made online.

Community Grants Program

The South Australian Government, through Office for Ageing Well, provided $600,000 in Ageing Community Grants in 2021-22 to support community organisations and local government projects.

These grants support South Australians to live and age well and promote opportunities for older South Australians to be involved and active in their communities, contributing to the strategic priorities of the State Plan.

In 2021-22, the following grant programs ran concurrently through an open tender process aimed at community organisations and local government across metropolitan and regional South Australia. Projects commenced on 1 June 2022 and will run for 12 months:

  • Grants for Seniors awarded funding to 24 recipients totalling $150,302. Funding supports purchase of equipment and delivery of cultural, educational and sporting activities and programs for older people.
  • Positive Ageing Fellowship Grants awarded funding to five projects totalling $197,650. Funding is focussed on capability building projects that support older South Australians to age well. A targeted grant of $50,000 was also provided to The Australian Centre for Social Innovation to deliver ongoing coaching, mentoring and support to grant recipients over the 12-month funding period to support sustainability.
  • Age Friendly SA Grants awarded funding to five projects totalling $200,000. Funding is focussed on supporting local government areas to meet the key priorities of the Age Friendly SA Strategy: Home, Community & environment; Making a contribution; Making it easier to get around; Intergenerational connectedness; and Age friendly services.

Project funding was provided for:

  • purchase of equipment.
  • delivery of cultural, educational and sporting activities and programs.
  • initiatives to tackle ageing stereotypes and support positive perceptions of ageing.
  • initiatives that support ageing well, participation, learning and independence.
  • initiatives to kick-start age friendly innovation projects to support opportunities for older people to connect to local places and community activities.