A head start to a Healthier Workplace
TPAV makes 18 recommendations to Royal Commission into Mental Health on better pathways for police, PSOs and the community at large.
The Police Association Victoria recently made a detailed submission to the Royal Commission into Mental Health, focusing on the need to reform mental health prevention strategies, treatment, funding, infrastructure and legislation.
Our Police and PSO members are particularly vulnerable to the effects of occupation-based mental health issues.
While all workers are prone to work-related stress, police, as first responders, are especially vulnerable to poor mental health and wellbeing outcomes arising from their work.
The relative prevalence of mental health amongst Police and PSOs is directly related to the nature and context of the work they perform. Further, the occupational context of modern policing takes a significant
toll on the mental health of police.
Shift work, high workload, increasing role expectations, and a high-pressure working environment also make police especially vulnerable to poor mental health outcomes. The culture of policing creates further barriers to help seeking.
In response, The Police Association Victoria detailed 18 recommendations (which can be found on these pages) which TPAV secretary Wayne Gatt hopes will be adopted by the Royal Commission to provide better mental health outcomes for our members now and into the future.
‘The mental health and wellbeing of our members has been a focus of The Police Association for some years now and while we could stand on our achievements from the past few years which have included the provisional treatment trial, improvements to health and wellbeing initiatives and the initiation of the Blue Hub pilot, we acknowledge that there is still much more work to be done before our members can enjoy what can truly be called a mentally healthy and safe workplace,’ he said.
‘We know that a key concern raised by our members over many years has been the amount of time and the inefficiencies in the mental health transfer process.’
‘That’s why we have taken the opportunity provided by the Royal Commission to provide a voice for our members and our commentary to the Commission not only looks at the mental health of our members, but also the role that they play in providing support to people who require mental health intervention in the community.
‘We know that a key concern raised by our members over many years has been the amount of time and the inefficiencies in the mental health transfer process. Our members’ concerns form a key component of the submission and the areas where we say the state government needs to improve its service delivery for the community’s benefit.’
‘We look forward to an opportunity to provide further advice to the Commission should it require it.’
The following is an edited version of TPAV’s 18 recommendations to the Mental Health Royal Commission, as set out in its July 2019 submission:
- Every workplace in Victoria Police develops a unique mental health strategy, that’s distinct to each individual workplace.
- Establish an external body to oversee the implementation of the recommendations that come out of the Royal Commission regarding police and other emergency services agencies.
- Allocate funding to Victoria Police to expand services accessed by officers beyond the Employee Assistance Program, including the appointment of additional Injury Management Consultants.
- Expand provision of external services to members through the Blue Hub model, including an additional and ongoing investment to sustain the project and ensure it remains a viable support.
- That adequate clinical services within Victoria Police be made available in regional areas, including provision of a tailored outreach model targeting members working at non-24-hour stations at remote locations.
- In order for a workers’ compensation claim to be rejected on the basis of Section 40(1) of the The Workers Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013, agents must take all reasonable steps to ensure the entirety of evidence is considered in decision making.
- That the focus through which Worksafe promote compliance is shifted to focussing on overseeing the regulation of insurers, as opposed to focussing on claims management.
- Relevant legislation be amended to provide the Accident Compensation Conciliation Service with the power to issue a direction to an agent where a decision has not considered all of the causative factors and applied the ‘wholly and predominantly’ test consistent with the views of the Supreme Court.
- The goal of the WorkCover system must be to return people to good health as the first priority. If they are willing and able, the system must then strive to return workers to work in a timely and therapeutic manner. The system must be fair and provide just compensation for workers.
- That all officers who retire have access to the BlueHub program, or a similar scheme that enables them access to timely, quality mental health treatment and support services on a sustainable basis.
- That a Veterans-specific program akin to what exists in the Australian Defence Force be established that provides police and their families access to lifelong, free counselling, mirroring the ‘Open Arms’ service that exists within the ADF.
- That police veterans have access to a scheme mirroring that set up by Department of Veterans Affairs, gaining access to a ‘Blue Card’ to gain access to treatment (funded by Victoria Police) regardless of the jurisdiction.
- ESSSuper is reformed to ensure the projected age for disability benefits is increased to age 60. This means the majority will receive disability benefits in line with the intent of the scheme's design, aligning disability with the expected working life, that is, presently to age 60.
- The Federal Government should review the superannuation preservation age regime and consider a lowered preservation age for police and emergency services workers.
- That the Government explores whether all frontline police are provided with all of the available less-than-lethal equipment to resolve situations that requires use of force.
- That Police, Ambulance and Clinical Early Response and Crisis Assessment and Treatment Teams be the primary response to mental health crises, being sufficiently resourced, permanent, known resources that operate state-wide.
- In order to facilitate police transfer to the mental health system and reduce the degree of contact between patient and the police, the number of mental health clinicians and/or facilities needs to substantially increase.
- That clear roles and responsibilities between police and medical professionals are developed and ‘legislated’ on a state-wide level. Cooperation cannot remain informal, by agreement on an individual, location or relationship-based dynamic.
By Brendan Roberts