The Defence Forces Climate Survey was commissioned on foot of a recommendation contained in the third and most recent Report of the Independent Monitoring Group (IMG), which was established to oversee implementation of recommendations relating to harassment, bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment in the Defence Forces. The issues highlighted in last year’s focus group report included a wide range of issues relating to human resource management such as pay (particularly for the lower paid), vacancies, recruitment and retention, promotion systems, performance management, leadership, culture, morale, stress and work-life balance.
The report pre-dated the significant improvements in pay that have taken place in the intervening period. The Defence Forces Representative Associations have also signed up to the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 which will see further pay increases ranging from 6.2% to 7.4% over the lifetime of the agreement.
While work to progress many of the other issues raised was already underway as part of the implementation of the White Paper on Defence, I directed that certain White Paper projects be brought forward and that work commence on these. I also initiated a review of the C&A scheme which is underway.
There are extensive support systems in place for members of the Defence Forces who may be experiencing stress. Personnel can avail of the Defence Forces Personnel Support Service (PSS) which provides psycho-educational skills training including: stress management, well-being, suicide and self-harm mitigation, and critical incident peer support. It also provides confidential services including Critical Incident Stress Management and psychosocial support, which is available to all Defence Forces personnel through its network of Barrack Personnel Support Service Officers (BPSSO) and occupational social workers (OSW) at formation, unit and barrack level. The PSS also supports contingents before, during and after overseas deployments.
A cohort of Designated Contact Persons (DCPs) provide a local advisory and referral service at barrack level to their colleagues with a particular focus on recruits and new entrants.
A confidential counselling service, provided by an independent service provider and funded by my Department, is available to all members who can access this service by calling a free phone number. A counsellor is available to talk, provide information, discuss needs and advise on follow up counselling. Face to face counselling can also be provided if required.
I am satisfied that these measures provide comprehensive supports to individuals in the Defence Forces who may require such supports.