The current pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for members working in Community Corrections. Every member should be congratulated and rightly proud of the work they have done in the face of these challenges. You provide a critical service to the State, even if it’s not always as visible to the community as your colleagues in other emergency services.
The PSA has a weekly teleconference with the Assistant Commissioner for Community Corrections to raise and progress issues. It is important that any issues the PSA raises in these forums have attempted resolution or clarification at a local level, initially through the Centre Manager and subsequently through the Director if not addressed. Below are some recent updates from this forum:
Command Post, Policy and Consultation
PSA Industrial Staff liaise with the Command Post, including involvement in the daily briefings. Matters can be raised here where not being addressed adequately on a local level.
The PSA will communicate any significant matters out of this forum but notes that Commissioner’s Instruction (07/2020) and Community Corrections COVID-19 Response Plan was circulated to all members on 23 March. In the fortnight since then, a range of fact sheets have also been distributed by Community Corrections on various health and safety procedures with regards to COVID-19.
Parramatta Community Corrections – Positive Case
The PSA was advised of a positive case at Parramatta last week and was promptly briefed by the Director about the steps undertaken to manage this. The PSA was able to reach most members via phone to check in and be assured this was being managed appropriately, in conjunction with NSW Health.
The PSA has suggested that it might be appropriate to reassess the A Team/B Team model to expand the number of teams where possible and thereby minimise the number of members affected and needing to self-isolate if there is a positive case in a centre. Alternatives are being considered.
Rollout of Technology
Community Corrections have advised they are doing as much as possible in making technology available that enables working from home:
- The remainder of the initial 600 phones will be distributed by the end of the week with another 200 on the way.
- The metro laptop rollout should be finalised by the end of this week with regional rollout finalised in the next few weeks.
Contact with Inmates in Isolation
The PSA was advised that Community Corrections staff should only have in-person contact with an isolated offender in custody when there are no alternative methods available to provide an essential service. If required, it is expected this contact would only be required in a rare exceptional circumstance.
If a member assesses they need to have direct (face-to-face) contact with an isolated offender, they must obtain approval from their Manager to do so. All appropriate personal protective equipment (as per Commissioner’s Instruction 2020/16), must be worn. If this equipment is not available the contact should not proceed.
Mental Health Management
The PSA and Community Corrections management both agree on the importance of managing mental health of members when working from home. It is particularly important that you use the various digital platforms like Microsoft Teams and Webex, as well as regular phone calls, to stay in touch with each other.
You should be talking to your Unit Leaders regularly and particularly after a critical incident, or challenging phone call or visit. They can assist you in dealing with the current challenges in the working environment and it’s important to reach out. You can also contact Benestar.
Google Duo App
This has been utilised to standardise access across different devices and allow video calls. A User Guide has been distributed.
Casual Field Officers
As communicated to members previously, casual Field Officers will have access to up to 20 days of Special Leave where alternative duties cannot be found. Note this is on a pro-rata basis.
For example, if you normally work 3 days per week, you should be entitled to a total of 12 days of Special Leave. Community Corrections is working on an updated fact sheet but questions or concerns should be clarified through your Manager and then the relevant Director in the meantime.
High Risk Categories
Directors are working with Managers to identify members in high risk categories who may need enhanced working from home arrangements. Members should identify themselves with Managers where they are in these categories.
Access to WFH and Leave – Individual Assistance
A number of members are facing challenges accessing appropriate working from home arrangements, or access to leave entitlements. The PSA can assist with this but in the first instance you will need to speak to your Manager. Put in the application and contact the PSA if the application has been formally rejected (ideally in writing with specific reasons for the rejection).
Applications based on the risk category of yourself or somebody you care for should include medical certification with:
- The name of the sick or at risk person;
- Specific details of why that person is at an elevated risk if they are exposed to COVID-19 (the more information the better);
- That the officer lives with/cares for that at risk person (for carer’s leave)
- As a result, the officer is required to self-isolate to protect themselves or the at risk person.
Members seeking Special Leave due to their risk category should consider that:
- They may require a certificate to clear them for a return to work;
- The special leave is for 20 days, once that expires no more will be granted and other forms of leave or LWOP will need to be used if further isolation is necessary.
Make sure your colleagues have protection in these challenging times by making sure they are in the union. The PSA can only represent its members – non-members can JOIN ONLINE HERE.
Your PSA Industrial Staff:
Roland Harris – Industrial Officer
Leonie Wright – Organiser