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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Page: 193


Mr Kelvin Thomson asked the Minister for Human Services, in writing, on 15 August 2006:

(1)   How many cases of (a) physical and (b) verbal abuse have been reported in Centrelink offices (i) since 2004 and (ii) for each month since January 2005.

(2)   What is the standard response when a case of (a) verbal or (b) physical abuse is reported in one of Centrelink’s offices.

(3)   For each year since 2004, please outline the (a) type and (b) number of (i) physical and (ii) non-physical injuries sustained by Centrelink staff due to customer abuse.

(4)   How many Centrelink offices have used the services of a security guard in each (a) year since 2004 and (b) month since January 2005.

(5)   How many Centrelink offices currently use the services of a security guard.

(6)   How many times have duress alarms been activated in Centrelink offices in each (a) year since 2004 and (b) month since January 2005.

(7)   How many times have the police been called to Centrelink offices in each (a) year since 2004 and (b) month since January 2005.

(8)   What training do Centrelink staff receive to prepare them to deal with incidents of abuse.

(9)   What support services are available to Centrelink staff who are the victims of customer abuse.

(10)   How many staff have accessed the support services referred to in part (9) in each (a) year since 2004 and (b) month since January 2005.

(11)   How many staff have taken leave due to either physical or verbal abuse in each (a) year since 2004 and (b) month since January 2005.


Mr Hockey (Minister for Human Services and Minister Assisting the Minister for Workplace Relations) —The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

(1)  

(a)   The number of customer aggression reports involving physical abuse since 2004, until 31 July 2006, is:

(i)   758

(ii)   The table below shows the number of reports involving physical abuse by month since January 2005, until 31 August 2006:

Number of

Physical abuse Reports

2005

2006

Jan

32

19

Feb

16

17

Mar

19

23

Apr

31

19

May

23

24

Jun

25

27

Jul

22

28

Aug

21

27

Sep

18

N/A

Oct

22

N/A

Nov

28

N/A

Dec

32

N/A

(b)   The total number of reports involving verbal abuse since 2004, until 31 August 2006, is:

(i)   13,322.

(ii)   The table below shows the number reports involving verbal abuse by month since January 2005, until 31 August 2006:

Verbal Abuse reports

2005

2006

Jan

463

426

Feb

429

356

Mar

410

395

Apr

382

288

May

461

379

Jun

411

380

Jul

404

412

Aug

442

434

Sep

450

N/A

Oct

429

N/A

Nov

445

N/A

Dec

367

N/A

(2)   Centrelink has well-established policies and standard procedures for the prevention and management of customer aggression incidents. Each office has a Local Response Guideline that instructs employees about the action to take in the event of customer aggression.

  • Where the response plan is implemented when the duress alarm is activated or the there is an obvious customer aggression incident;
  • Managers and team leaders will intervene and the police may be called;
  • The employee/s involved may take a break to recover and return to work when they feel confident;
  • The employee reports the incident on a Report of Customer Aggression;
  • The team leader will follow up with the employee involved and provide advice and implement action to ensure their well-being. This may include immediate consultation with Employee Assistance Programs or Human Resources. The reports are also reviewed by Human Resources personnel, who follow-up and arrange support services as required, and
  • In the event of a serious traumatic event professional counsellors will make telephone contact with the employee and/or attend the workplace as soon as possible after the incident to provide support.

(3)   The table below shows the number of reports of injury by year by injury type since January 2004:

Injury Type

Super-

ficial

Injury

Sprains/

Strains

Soft

Tissue

Injury

Frac-

ture

Open Wound

Cont-

usion

Foreign

Body/

Eye

Injury

Sensory/

Ear

Injury

Asth-

ma

Hyper-tension

Heart Condit-ion

Mental Disorders

Nervous Disorder

Other

Not Specified

2004

10

16

1

0

5

1

0

0

2

68

35

2005

9

10

1

1

1

2

1

1

1

53

39

2006 end of June

3

8

0

0

2

0

1

0

1

38

15

Note: All injury types are physical apart from Mental and Nervous Disorders.

(4) (a)   The number of Centrelink offices that have used the services of a security guard for each year is:

  • 2004 - 27;
  • 2005 - 26;
  • 2006 to July - 29.

(b)   The table below shows the number of offices that have used the services of a security guard by month since January 2005, until 31 July 2006:

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

2005

22

19

20

21

18

18

18

18

18

18

19

25

2006

25

20

20

28

22

22

23

22

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

(5)   Twenty-two offices currently use the services of a security guard.

(6)  

(a)   The number of times the duress alarm has been activated for each year is:

  • 2004 - 942;
  • 2005 - 907;
  • 2006 to 31 August - 578.

(b)   The table below lists the number of times the duress alarm has been used by month since January 2005, until 31 July 2006:

Duress Alarm Use

2005

2006

Jan

67

68

Feb

75

58

Mar

60

72

Apr

89

53

May

85

63

Jun

74

84

Jul

59

80

Aug

89

100

Sep

69

N/A

Oct

84

N/A

Nov

91

N/A

Dec

65

N/A

(7)  

(a)   Police may be called to Centrelink offices as a result physical or verbal abuse, altercations between customers or damage to property. The number of times that police have been called to Centrelink offices for each year is:      

  • 2004 - 958;
  • 2005 - 873;
  • 2006 to 31 August - 521.

(b)   Police may be called to Centrelink offices as a result physical or verbal abuse, altercations between customers or damage to property. The table below shows the number of times that police have been called to Centrelink offices since January 2005, until 31 August 2006:

Police Called

Jan - Dec 2005

Jan - Dec 2006

Jan

70

57

Feb

61

40

March

63

86

April

80

44

May

74

57

June

67

84

July

56

72

Aug

85

81

Sept

77

N/A

Oct

77

N/A

Nov

85

N/A

Dec

78

N/A

(8)   Centrelink employees are offered a range of training programs that address customer aggression including:

  • Induction training;
  • Customer service training, including a Centrelink specific course Dealing with Difficult Situations and Aggression, and
  • Training courses in conflict management provided by external training providers.

(9)   Centrelink provides support services for employees who experience distress or an injury after experiencing aggression. The method of delivery for support services will vary from location to location but will include:

  • Peers and Team Leaders to provide immediate support;
  • Professional counsellors who are employed by Centrelink;
  • Counsellors provided through Employee Assistance Programs, and
  • Rehabilitation services from Comcare accredited providers.

   Employees are encouraged to complete a Report of Customer Aggression, to record the physical or verbal abuse. The team leader is required to follow up with the employee and take action to ensure their well-being.

   (10) An answer to the question is not available because all employee counselling services are confidential and records of internal counselling and the specific reasons for each counselling service are not recorded.

   (11) Employees are advised of their right to claim workers’ compensation as a result of injury caused by customer physical or verbal abuse. Comcare is the authority that approves compensation claims and compensation leave.

(a)   The number of accepted compensation claims as a result of physical and non-physical injuries caused by physical or verbal abuse, by year is:

  • 2004 - 24;
  • 2005 - 19;
  • 2006 to July - 7.

(b)   The table below shows the accepted compensation claims as a result of physical and non-physical injuries caused by physical or verbal abuse, by month since January 2005, until 31 July 2006:

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

2005

3

2

2

1

4

1

0

4

1

0

1

0

2006

5

2

0

0

0

0

0

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

To prepare this answer it has taken approximately 13 hours and 35 minutes at an estimated cost of $704.