252. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the supports in place for front line staff in An Garda Síochána that deal with extremely stressful and difficult situations in the work place. [5636/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for carrying on and managing and controlling generally the administration and business of An Garda Síochána including the provision of employee welfare supports.
I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that there is a variety of supports in place for members to assist them in dealing with stressful and difficult situations that they may encounter in the workplace.
Since 1994 a Peer Supporter Programme has been in operation within An Garda Síochána to help Gardaí cope with the effect of a traumatic incident in the workplace. I understand that the programme has been found to be very helpful in assisting Garda members in the aftermath of a traumatic incident. The programme is delivered by over 850 Garda who are trained as peer supporters and are available in all Garda Districts to assist colleagues in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic incident. Following each traumatic incident, a peer supporter is activated. He/she will contact the member and offer support. In the event that the peer supporter deems it appropriate, he/she may refer the member to the Garda Employee Assistance Service.
The Garda Employee Assistance Service is available to members of An Garda Síochána and supports them in managing and resolving personal and work-related difficulties. All employee assistance officers, and in the region of 250 of the peer supporters, are trained in Critical Incident Stress management which is an intervention designed to prevent or mitigate psychological reactions to a critical incident. This intervention is delivered with the support of a mental health professional when required. Where necessary the services of the Occupational Health Department, headed by the Chief Medical Officer of An Garda Síochána, are made available to assist Garda personnel deal with stressful and extremely difficult situations in the workplace.
Since June 2016, a 24/7, 365 day 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 not mandatory and is self-referral. It is provided by Inspire Wellbeing. Each member of the organisation may avail of six free sessions of counselling per year, an additional two will be provided if clinically approved. All appointments and consultants are arranged directly between the Service Provider and the staff member.
I am assured by the Commissioner that An Garda Síochána is committed to ensuring that members exposed to a traumatic incident receive the appropriate assistance and support to assist then in coping with the aftermath of such incidents.