Community Corrections | COVID-19 Update

02 April 2020

The Public Service Association (PSA) met on Thursday 26 March 2020 with the Department for Correctional Services (DCS) ensuring they are up to date with COVID-19 procedures. Attending this meeting was PSA General Secretary Nev Kitchin, PSA Organisers, PSA Worksite Representatives, and DCS Executive Director, Community Corrections and Specialist Prisons. The meeting was productive and a number of outcomes were achieved for our members working in Community Correctional Centres.
The PSA extends a big thanks to members for your quick response to our Update seeking feedback on Wednesday 25 March 2020. Your feedback informed the discussion held with DCS management and many of your suggestions have been the basis of the solutions we have achieved with management.
DCS management provided an overview of the action already taken by DCS in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The DCS COVID-19 Workforce Contingency Plan and Outbreak Action Plans are currently being developed and will be forwarded to the PSA when ready.
DCS has introduced a number of measures for Community Correctional Centres (CCC) already which cover 70% of offenders who usually attend a Correctional Centre, including:

  • Suspension of community service.

  • Changing Assist and Monitor tier offenders to phone contact only with no requirement to attend a CCC.

  • Drug and alcohol testing is only to occur for Assist and Monitor offenders where there are genuine concerns about compliance.

  • Some sites have changed where their offenders are reporting in the physical site, this is being done on an office-by-office basis.

Members in Community Correctional Centres raised these issues which were discussed with the following outcomes.

  1. Offenders are still required to sign initial intake paperwork agreeing to comply with departmental requirements.

    Outcome: As requirements are covered in bail/parole/bond paperwork, a position was reached that a signature is not required at this time. Management supports the view that there is no requirement for the offender to sign DCS initiated paperwork and will issue an EDI supporting staff to sign on the offender’s behalf.

  2. Change and Control tiers still require in-person contact.

    Outcome: DCS is considering the next stages of face-to-face reporting requirements and will provide an update in the near future.

  3. 15 minute intake interviews. Management was unaware of this direction, however we believe it is linked to social distancing requirements.

    Outcome: A suggestion was made to have the offender report to the front desk, leave a phone number and the offender can be contacted by phone to undertake the interview. Management was open to the suggestion and will consider options and provide an update to the PSA.

  4. Urine testing is occurring in a space that does not allow for appropriate social distancing and sometimes without Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

    Outcome: Management advised urine testing is significantly down, however some sites are still reporting a high number of offenders still booked in. Management has reviewed the booking schedule and adjusted to space out bookings. They are also currently looking at removing some booking slots going forward to reduce volume. If this is an issue in your site, please contact PSA Organiser Kelly Bowey.

  5. Staff having to purchase their own PPE.

    Outcome: This should be addressed by the delivery of PPE today. It is recommended that as per Custodial Protocol, single kits should be centralised in the office, with training provided about when they should be used, how to safely use them and how to dispose of the PPE after use.

  6. Request for thermal thermometers for screening offenders and employees, with a view to sending anyone with a fever home.

    Outcome: Management advised a DCS order has been made and they agreed to provide an update on whether the order quantity was sufficient.

  7. Not enough laptops for staff to work from home and VPN allocation to be exceeded.

    Outcome: This has been looked at and many more VPN allocations should be available from Monday. DCS also considering approval of staff to take desktop computers home and this is currently being assessed by the CyberSecurity experts.

  8. Noarlunga CCC cannot transfer calls out of the office.

    Outcome: Management acknowledges this has been an issue for some time. Currently there is no immediate telephone solution, however a suggestion was made to transfer desk phones to mobiles for those working remotely. If this is done, admin can transfer to desk phones and the desk phone can redirect the call. Management has agreed to investigate possible work-arounds and will provide an update.

  9. Members being told that flexitime is no longer allowed to be accrued.

    Outcome: This has been identified and the decision reversed. If there are other instances of this occurring please contact PSA Organiser Kelly Bowey.

  10. Members forced to take annual leave.

    Outcome: Management to make enquiries but confirmed this was not DCS’s intention. As with flexitime, if this is occurring under the banner of “COVID-19” please contact the PSA.

Other actions and issues
At the meeting, the PSA also raised concerns about the mental health and wellbeing of PSA members in DCS over what will be a challenging time for the Department.
Management committed to confirm details of the Employee Assistance Program operating model (i.e. virtual sessions) and to consider whether extra sessions could be provided in the current circumstances. COVID-19 workplace training was identified as useful and will be brought to staff’s attention. Personal hygiene messages will be screened on waiting room TVs.
As your union, we are closely monitoring these unprecedented events and keeping DCS accountable. The COVID-19 situation is constantly changing and evolving and we will continue to be in regular, weekly contact with DCS management. We will keep you informed of any changes as we become aware of them.
We encourage all members to access the DCS Intranet for up to date information. The PSA is receiving this information as it is posted so we are able to share with our members correct, timely and factual information.
The PSA is always here for members who have questions or concerns about how this situation is being managed.
We will continue to work closely with DCS to protect you as essential public service workers.
Please do not hesitate to contact the PSA Members’ Rights Hotline on 8205 3227 or your PSA Organiser directly with any concerns or industrial issues.
Remember it is a very difficult time for you all and now, more than ever, working together and looking after your workmates is the best place to start.
Be kind to each other and check on how people are travelling while taking the time to look after your own wellbeing.
Speak to workmates who are not already PSA members and encourage them to join online here. We can best protect everyone when more people are in the union and members will be able to receive full support.