129. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the supports afforded to prison staff if a member of the Irish Prison Service is injured in the execution of their duties; and the method used to communicate these supports to staff. [7587/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I am advised by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that the Irish Prison Service Strategic Plan 2016 – 2018 sets out the four key actions for the Irish Prison Service, the first of which is Staff Support.
The Irish Prison Service has its own Employee Assistance Programme with 3 full-time national Employee Assistance Officers. At local prison level, staff have access to a network of almost fifty voluntary Staff Support Officers. This support network provides a confidential service offering information, advice and onward referrals on a wide range of personal and work-related issues. The Employee Assistance Programme plays a key role in supporting staff, particularly those who have been injured on duty.
In October 2016, the Irish Prison Service launched an Independent Counselling Service for staff, which is provided by Inspire Workplaces. This service is available to all staff and is free of charge. This is an important enhancement of the Irish Prison Service Employee Assistance Programme. This Counselling Service is completely confidential and is designed to assist employees in resolving personal or work-related concerns. It is a 24/7 Freephone helpline, with access to up to 6 counselling sessions for support covering a wide range of issues.
For the purpose of sick pay, absences that are deemed to be Occupational Injury or Disease related, are dealt with under Civil Service Circulars which allow for six months on full pay followed by six months on half pay. In 2015, the Director General sought and obtained sanction to introduce a Serious Physical Assault Scheme which allows that, in certain cases, full pay may be sanctioned up to a maximum of twelve months. This is a considerable benefit for the small number of staff affected. The Scheme which was introduced in July 2015 is an interim arrangement pending the completion by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform of a full review of Occupational Injury or Disease in the Public Service.
The Irish Prison Service is committed to strengthening the support that the Irish Prison Service provides for staff. The Irish Prison Service is introducing the CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management) model of interventions, which has been endorsed by the State Claims Agency. CISM provides guidance to staff on how to manage and control stress and reduce or eliminate uncontrolled stress. CISM comprises of a continuum of care and targets the response of individuals and groups of individuals to traumatic events rather than the incident itself. It aims to minimise the emotional impact of critical incidents on staff, increase the resistance and resilience of staff to harmful stress and prevent the harmful effects on staff of these incidents by working with and supporting employees at the time of critical incidents.
Information on these supports is available through the Employee Assistance Programme and a booklet for staff is available in all prisons and on the Irish Prison Service intranet. The responsibility for the Human Resource function in each prison and unit of the Irish Prison Service lies with the HR Governor and the HR office. It is the responsibility of the HR Governor to maintain supportive contact with staff members who have been injured in the course of their duties.