COVID-19: safety, protective equipment and temporary staff

It’s been a difficult time for everyone over the past month and, as always, the PSA has your back. If you have any questions or concerns you can contact us for support, advice and advocacy.

The PSA has received a number of briefings from senior Department representatives over the past few weeks, and they have updated the PSA on how they are supporting staff. These briefings have also provided an opportunity for us to raise issues that are important to members so that they can be resolved.

In this update:

Performance management during Covid-19

  1. Personal Protective Equipment
  2. Application of safety measures and inconsistencies
  3. Temporary Staff
  4. Contact Workers
  5. Support for mental health

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Performance Management During Covid-19

The PSA raised concerns about performance management processes during the crisis. It is our view that members will be unable to receive the required support to improve performance in the current unusual circumstances.

The PSA suggested they put performance management on hold.

The Department advised this has been discussed across the NSW Public Sector and it will report back to the PSA on how it will be managed.

If you are experiencing issues related to performance management, contact the Member Support Centre on 1300 772 679.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The PSA requested an update on provision of PPE to workplaces as well as what stores were available in the districts.

The Department advised that, as this is a whole-of-sector problem, a whole-of-sector procurement process for hard-to-procure items has been implemented. All clusters must go through the central distribution/procurement process for these hard-to-procure items, most of which are PPE. A committee is overseeing this process and supplies will then be sent to where they are needed most across the public sector.

The Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) has met to decide what its priorities are. Unfortunately, this problem is not going away and DCJ will continue to monitor the situation.

Supplies of gloves, masks and hand sanitiser have been distributed out to districts for use in Housing offices and Community Service Centres. There should currently be supplies in every district but they are monitoring this.

All safety measures being implemented across DCJ are being developed in conjunction with a NSW Health Doctor, all measures implemented have been approved by them in line with state-wide health guidelines.

The PSA reminds members to raise any safety concerns you have with your team leader or manager. If the concerns are not addressed, lodge an incident report through SAP immediately and contact the PSA if no prompt action is taken to address your concerns.

Inconsistencies in application of safety measures and conditions of employment

The PSA raised that we are seeing inconsistencies in how state-wide safety measures and application of conditions of employment are being implemented. While different work areas may need additional or different measures, it has been reported to the PSA that members doing the same work in different areas are not being supported consistently.

While many Managers and Team Leaders have provided good support to their staff, it seems that some local management have not educated themselves properly on the advice being published centrally about protective measures or work practices when working from home.

The PSA encourages all members to review the DCJ Website and Intranet for updates on:

  • Application of Flex when working from home
  • Flex agreements and Flexible Working Arrangements
  • Casework practice support for Community Services
  • Housing Service Delivery – online daily updates

Safety measures and risk assessments in both Housing and Community Services for all home visits, assertive outreach, front counter work and triaging.

You can access information for DCJ staff HERE.

Temporary staff – Housing, Community Services, Corporate and Commissioning

Temporary staff from across the Department have been in touch with the PSA including those working in the Helpline, CSCs, Housing Offices and those whose contracts were extended until June during restructures of Corporate Services and Strategy, Policy and Commissioning (SPC).

As we have previously reported, while DCJ will proceed with filling some positions in the Corporate Services restructure there will be no redundancies during the Covid-19 crisis. Similarly, the SPC restructure has now been placed on hold.

The Department has committed to providing the PSA with an update on temporary contracts. The PSA will report back to members on this as soon as possible.

Community Services – contact workers

The PSA raised issues with the safety and job security of Contact Workers in Community Services.

Most contact workers are casual and some have experienced a decrease in work as a result of covid-19. The Department advised that contact visits should be continuing, although it may happen in different ways or remotely.

The PSA is concerned for the safety of contact workers due to the transportation of children and being out in the community a lot through the course of their work.

If you are experiencing issues related to either of these issues, please contact the PSA so that we can provide you with advice and support.

Important PSA Bulletins to read on COVID-19

17 March
Coronavirus update – Housing, FACS & Community Services

20 March
Member Support Centre Extends Hours for COVID-19

24 March
Coronavirus update

6 April
COVID-19 and Community Services: staying safe

 

 

 

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