Thursday, 10 December 2020

Questions (64)

Neale Richmond


64. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Justice the supports in place for gardaí who have been injured while on duty; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41546/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible, in law, for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána, including the provision of employee welfare supports.  As Minister, I have no role in the matter.

I am very conscious of the hazardous nature of the work undertaken by members of An Garda Sícohána and the risks they undertake to protect our communities from harm.  For those members who sustain injuries in the course of their duties, the Deputy will be aware that proposals to reform the compensation scheme for Garda members who suffer injuries were published in the General Scheme of the Garda Síochána (Compensation) Bill in May 2017. 

The new Scheme is intended to repeal and replace the Garda Síochána (Compensation) Acts 1941 to 1945. The 1941 and 1945 Acts currently provide compensation in respect of death or injury which is maliciously inflicted upon a member of An Garda Síochána while on duty or in connection with their duties.

I am further informed that An Garda Siochána operates an absence management process with an overarching goal to understand and address absence across the organisation and proactively support those on sick absence.  The process is owned and managed at District level for Garda members and at Divisional level for Civilian staff.  Consistent communication channels are put in place to ensure contact maintained with individuals off sick for more than 14 days.  An Garda Siochana uses Occupational health programmes to support individuals and promote good health. Back to work interviews are conducted with individuals off sick and injured for more than 5 consecutive days or 3 single days in a roster/ 28 day period.  

Those who experience traumatic injuries are encouraged to engage with the Employee Assistance Service within An Garda Síochána which provides a confidential professional support service to both serving and retired personnel of An Garda Síochána, students, reserves and their families.  It is a proactive response by the organisation to support personnel in managing and resolving work and/or personal difficulties, such as injuries sustained in the line of duty, at an early stage which will assist them in maintaining their health and wellbeing. 

The service is available to help resolve work and/or personal issues, including mental health, which may be causing stress, worry or disruption to an individual’s life.  The Service is under the remit of Human Resources and People Development, and managed by a Superintendent. There are 16 full time staff attached to the unit. Each Employee Assistance Officer has completed a Diploma in Employee Assistance and Social Support delivered by NUI Galway. 

The Employee Assistance Service is supported by a Peer Supporter Network.  Peer Supporters are colleagues who have received appropriate training in helping members cope with the effect of a traumatic incident in the workplace.

Since June 24th 2016, a 24/7, 365 Independent Helpline and Counselling Service is available to all staff within An Garda Síochána.  This service is available for both work and personal difficulties.  The service is provided by Inspire Wellbeing and is confidential, free and self-referral.

Under the most recent contract awarded to Inspire Wellbeing, a new 2 tier system is available which includes:

- Solution Focus Based Therapy for life and work events

- Trauma Focussed based Counselling, delivered by qualified trauma counsellors 

The mental health of members and Garda staff is vitally important.  Between September and December 2018 approximately 88 personnel in An Garda Síochána were trained in “Mental Health First Aid Ireland”. This training was delivered by St John of Gods in conjunction with the HSE.

The Garda organisation is conscious of the need to provide support to all staff  particularly  in the complex area of modern policing and therefore the supports structures are continuously reviewed to ensure they meet the needs of the membership.