Chapter 7 Outcome 5: Workforce development and support

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1 Chapter 7 Outcome 5: Workforce development and support 1) Consultation with stakeholders identified increasing the capacity of the people who work in the corrections system, both within and outside of government, as a significant issue. By this is meant ensuring that the workforce has the skills, abilities and experience that will enable them to carry out their work most effectively. Addressing this issue requires the recruitment and retention of skilled staff, appropriate training and development, and ongoing supervision and support. Workforce profile 2) Community Corrections personnel comprise predominantly probation officers, community service order supervisors and support officers, and administrative staff. The Prison Service comprises predominantly correctional officers and supervisors, case coordinators, education and training staff, psychologists and counsellors and administrative staff. Most correctional officers do not have tertiary qualifications, nor do they necessarily need them. Probation officers are more likely to be tertiary-qualified. 3) The skills necessary or desirable for work in corrective services have changed with changes in practice over recent years. For staff working directly with offenders, the change from a monitoring and preventative role under the nothing works ideology to case management under the what works risk-needs-responsivity framework has required a significant change in approach. For other roles, qualifications, skills and/or experience in areas such as law, administration, public policy, security, policing, social research etc may be advantageous. 4) Some qualifications relevant to corrective services work are offered in Tasmania, such the Certificates III and IV in Correctional Practice offered by Skills Tasmania, and the Graduate Certificate / Graduate Diploma in Criminology and Corrections offered by UTAS. General qualifications or training in areas such as psychology, social work, counselling and criminology can be a good basis for front-line rehabilitative work in Corrective Services. 5) Additionally, in many roles the performance of staff can improve greatly with experience. It is important to address staff retention and succession planning. 6) Finally, staff working for relevant NGOs require similar skills, and people often move from one organisation to another, so it is also worth considering capacity as a sector-wide issue. Staff recruitment and retention 7) The recruitment and retention of skilled staff is of high importance to corrective services work. Suggested actions relevant to this strategy were: Review entry-level qualifications 8) Currently key front-line roles such as Correctional Officer and Probation Officer do not require specified qualifications, although newly recruited Probation Officers are required to have an unspecified tertiary qualification, and Correctional Officers are required to complete qualifications in order to progress. Some Probation Officers have degrees in psychology or Breaking the Cycle Discussion Paper Page 63

2 social work, but others, including some very experienced and effective staff, have degrees in less directly relevant areas, or none. On the other hand, entry-level Correctional Officers are tested for certain skills, but are not required to have particular qualifications, despite the existence of relevant industry-based qualifications (e.g. Certificate III / IV in Correctional Practice). 9) Benefits: If specific entry-level qualifications are required, new staff can be assumed to have certain skills and can hit the ground running. 10) Issues / barriers: Making particular qualifications, skills or attributes essential for roles may exclude otherwise suitable applicants, making filling roles more difficult. If a qualification is not actually essential for the role, it is better not to make it a requirement so as not to exclude people who might be effective staff. In-service training is likely to be a better strategy, particularly as it is difficult to recruit people into the corrections system. Develop career pathways across the sector 11) The organisational structure of corrective services is relatively flat. Correctional Officers can progress to the rank of Correctional Supervisor and Correctional Manager, and Probation Officers can progress to more senior roles, but many staff may work for twenty or more years in the same role. 12) Additionally, staff working in this area may have a work history encompassing Community Corrections, the Tasmania Prison Service, other human services work (e.g. Child and Family Services, Youth Justice, Alcohol and Drug Services, Police) or non-government organisations. 13) Benefits: Building career pathways within the sector may improve staff retention, while acknowledging the cross-over in skills between different departments and services may identify opportunities for career development across the sector. 14) Issues / barriers: Existing award provisions and state service legislation may be restrictive. Facilitate staff rotation through a variety of roles or placements 15) Following on from the previous item, it was suggested that providing staff with the opportunity to rotate through a variety of roles in corrective services could increase staff skills and understanding of various functions and help prevent burn-out. This could be facilitated within existing positions, or expanded by broadening position descriptions so that roles with common skills had a shared classification, but flexibility to vary location and focus. 16) Benefits: Increased staff job satisfaction and development of skills and experience within the sector. 17) Issues / barriers: Rotation would have to be limited to appropriate roles. Promote corrective services as a career choice 18) In other jurisdictions, work in corrective services is pro-actively marketed as a career choice, but this is currently not widely practised in Tasmania. Elements of this strategy could include marketing corrective services to target groups (e.g. Social Work students, ) as a career that makes a difference, or aiming to be an employer of choice by developing and Breaking the Cycle Discussion Paper Page 64

3 emphasising the factors while make corrective services an attractive and supportive workplace. 19) Benefits: Attracting appropriate applicants and increasing the positive profile of corrective services. 20) Issues / barriers: There are restrictions on the marketing strategies that can be implemented within the state public service. Review remuneration for Official Visitors 21) It has been suggested that the function of Official Visitor within corrective services does not receive appropriate remuneration. While not staff of Corrective Services, Official Visitors perform an important oversight role within the prison system. Currently, their remuneration is in the form of an honorarium of $500 per year. In contrast, Mental Health Official Visitors are paid by the hour. Since July 2009, when the Mental Health Official Visitor Scheme also came under the administration of the Ombudsman, the difference in the treatment of the two types of Official Visitor has become more obvious. 22) Benefits: Equity between Prison Official Visitors and Mental Health Official Visitors, who perform a similar role. 23) Issues / barriers: Resource requirements. Discussion questions: Staff recruitment and retention Which of the actions described above do you think would most help to attract and retain skilled staff? Why do you think so? Are there other actions that you think would help attract and retain skilled staff? Opportunities for staff training and development 24) Another way of increasing capacity within the sector is though training and development opportunities for existing staff. Strategies proposed to achieve this were: a) Professional development through in-service training; b) Shared training / staff development across the sector; and c) A formal structure for supervision and support. Professional development through in-service training 25) Ongoing training and professional development is important in skills building and responding to changes in the sector, and also in strengthening staff morale and commitment. Training topics suggested by stakeholders during consultation included ethical decision-making, attitudes towards offenders, and concepts from intelligent policing. 26) Benefits: Increased skills and knowledge in the workforce. Breaking the Cycle Discussion Paper Page 65

4 27) Issues / barriers: As well as cost, the time required for training and its impact on workflows must be considered. This is particularly relevant to the prison, as staffing must be maintained at all times, and front-line staff work varying shifts. Training provided should be seen as relevant by staff to ensure engagement. Share training / staff development across the sector 28) Given that many of the same skills are required across the sector, it has been suggested that training could be shared between the branches of corrective services, and NGOs who provide services to offenders. Related areas such as Youth Justice may also wish to be involved. 29) Benefits: This approach could increase capacity across the sector as a whole, achieve economies of scale in training, allow the sharing of perspectives, and strengthen networks. 30) Issues / barriers: Different areas may have different training priorities and requirements. Provide a formal structure for supervision and encourage peer support in the workplace 31) A strong supervisory relationship can be invaluable to staff. Supervisors review outcomes, discuss practice issues and provide support. For example, within Community Corrections, Probation Officers are supported by their Professional Supervisors. 32) Developing peer support can also be beneficial. Networks could be developed between TPS and CC staff for the purpose of mutual support. 33) Benefits: Quality assurance, skills development and support for staff. 34) Issues / barriers: Availability of appropriately skilled / experienced staff to provide supervision. Discussion questions: Staff training and development Which of the proposed actions do you think would be most important to the overall goal of increase staff skill levels and resulting outcomes? Why do you think so? What types of training / development do you think should be provided? Why? What issues or problems do you think might arise? How could they be addressed? Are there other actions that you think would help increase the skill levels of existing staff? Why do you think so? Breaking the Cycle Discussion Paper Page 66

5 Discussion Questions for Outcome 5 What skills, qualifications or attributes do you think are important for corrective services staff? Do you think that workforce development and support can contribute to the overall goal of keeping the community safe and reducing re-offending? Why do you think so? Which of the strategies and actions described in this chapter do you think would be most effective in contributing to this goal? Why do you think so? What do you think the priorities should be? Do you think the strategies and actions described in this chapter would be important in improving community confidence in the corrections system? Why do you think so? Breaking the Cycle Discussion Paper Page 67

6 Breaking the Cycle Project

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