It’s critical we protect our older Australians

The following comment piece by Petra Nelson, the Managing Director of Cited’s parent company Bright People Technologies, appears in the current issue of Business Pulse, the magazine of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA.

Elder abuse is, sadly, a serious problem in our society and one that is increasing as our population ages.

The World Health Organisation defines elder abuse as “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person”.

Abuse can be physical, emotional, financial or sexual. It is estimated that up to 10% of older Australians experience elder abuse in any given year. What can be done about the horrific exploitation that is undermining the dignity and autonomy of our older Australians?

A key risk mitigation process is the thorough checking of people who work directly with the elderly, either in residential aged care homes or for the service providers carrying out in-home assistance.

It is critical that professionals and carers are exactly who they say they are, with verified identities and valid credentials. Unfortunately, you don’t have to look hard to find instances of unqualified people posing as doctors, drivers without valid licences or carers with expired credentials or visas.

These issues are creating significant risks in aged care facilities, where non-compliance can quite literally be a matter of life and death. Not only is the well-being of elderly people in jeopardy, organisations with non-compliant workers face significant reputational, financial and operational risks.

Safety and security at aged care facilities is a particular concern for many, and the revelations of abuse at the Oakden nursing home in South Australia, prompting a Senate inquiry, shocked many of us.

In May 2017 the Australian Law Reform Commission’s report, Elder Abuse – A National Legal Response, listed as two key outcomes of its recommendations: improved responses to elder abuse in aged care; and the enhanced employment screening of aged care workers.3

The issue of identity crime, which can include the fabrication, manipulation or theft of identities, is one of the biggest crimes in Australia and costs the country up to $3 billion every year.

The Australian Federal Police describes it as “a critical threat to the Australian community”, while the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission says it is ‘a key enabler for serious and organised crime groups, and facilitates offences in nearly all crime markets, undermines the integrity of the economy, financial and banking institutions, licensing, immigration and welfare systems.’

Credentials fraud is a very real threat to universities and colleges. An increasingly competitive global job market and international student mobility are not only resulting in growth in the number of online “diploma mills”, where people can buy qualifications online, but also an increase in stolen and forged certifications.

Aged care providers owe it to themselves, their clients, their employees, and their shareholders, to ensure the integrity of their workforce at all times. The Federal Government’s introduction of Consumer Directed Care, giving people greater choice about their service providers, only serves to strengthen the criticality of a compliant workforce in aged care providers.

While workforce compliance is often regarded as labour-intensive and costly, it doesn’t have to be. An online system such as Bright’s Cited platform makes it easy for individuals and companies to not only verify people’s identities and credentials at the time of hiring but manage workers’ ongoing regulatory and industry compliance with automated renewals and credentials storage. Cited enables information to be shared across industries, so businesses avoid duplicating costs and effort.

Cited is a preferred supplier of Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), and is also proud to be in partnership with CCIWA to assist companies mitigate the risks involved in workforce compliance, and increase companies’ operational efficiency. For CCIWA members who need to establish proof at work, Cited offers discounted rates on checks and compliance services.

1 World Health Organisation, The Toronto Declaration on the Global Prevention of Elder Abuse (2002)

2,3 Australian Law Reform Commission, Elder Abuse – A National Legal Response (2017)