What determines your roles and responsibilities in the organisation?
Within the organisation, staff at each level will have a variety of roles and responsibilities. These are determined by a range of requirements through:
- Funding bodies, such as Commonwealth and State Government departments.
- Peak bodies (organisations that represent the interests of those working in the community and social services sector, for example, Queensland Council of Social Services (QCOSS) http://www.qcoss.org.au
- Industry-wide awards and levels, e.g. the Social and Community Services (SACS) award http://www.asu.asn.au/sacs/
- Organisational structures. For example, does your role include an administrative role as well as a client service role?
- Internal policies and procedures. For example, you might be the allocated WH&S representative for your team.
- Commonwealth and State Government standards and guidelines based on legislation, e.g. Disability Service Standards or Standards of Care for Child in Care.
Examples of legislation and associated guidelines taken into account may include:
Child Protection Act 1999
The sections to take special note of are:
Chapter 4 Standards of care
Chapter 5 Release of information and protection from liability
Chapter 6, relating to confidentiality
Schedule1, the Charter of rights for children in care.
Anti-Discrimination Act 1991
The sections to take special note of are:
Chapter 2 Discrimination prohibited by the Act
Chapter 3 Sexual harassment related to this Act.
Privacy Act 1988
The section to take special note of is:
Information privacy principles Part1 Section 5
Disability Services Act 1986
The section to take special note of is: Part 1 Section 5 Principles objectives and guiding philosophy.
Sometimes the funding guidelines under which organisations receive government financial support outline clearly the target client group and the conditions of service the contracted organisation must comply with. An example is available for you to read.
Activity 1.3: Funding guidelines
Duty of care
Duty of care is a principle underpinning the service provided by support workers. A duty of care is a legal requirement: it exists when someone’s actions, or failure to act, could reasonably be expected to affect another person.
It is not only about legal obligations: it is your duty to do everything reasonably practicable to protect others from harm. It is about providing an appropriate standard of care.
Duty of Care checklist to help you decide on a reasonable action.
Duty of care is part of the legal term negligence and is determined by precedent (previous court decisions) and how the court interprets each situation. The way the court interprets the decision will depend on a range of factors and circumstances, including the following:
- what would be expected of a ‘reasonable’ person in the same situation
- the worker’s roles and responsibilities within the organisation
- the worker’s training and experience
- the practicalities of the situation
- current community values relating to acceptable practice
- standards generally seen as applicable to the situation
- relevant laws such as the Juvenile Justice Act 1996, the Child Protection Act 1999, and the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cwlth)
- whether the risk is foreseeable
- the nature and consequences of the risk.
Implications for support workers
You need to be clear about the exact nature of the support to be provided and ensure that this understanding is shared by clients with whom you are working.
The organisation also has a role in ensuring that the clients you support understand your role and responsibilities and the nature of the support provided.
Your organisation will have developed workplace policies and procedures to ensure that day-to-day work practices comply with relevant legislation. It is your responsibility to follow these when working with clients.
Policies and procedures
Organisations develop their own policies and procedures in accordance with the relevant legislation and guidelines. These determine roles and responsibilities for support workers within the organisation, and are generally decided by others in management positions.
Policies are concise statements of principles which indicate how an organisation will act in a particular area of its operation. Hence policies are statements of principle guiding decision-making and service delivery.
Procedures are the methods and technologies that are used in an organisation to get things done. They determine how you should carry out policies . They may be mandatory (i.e. must always be followed) or discretionary (i.e. to be followed if required).
Examples of policies and procedures include:
- the organisation’s mission statement
- workplace behaviour
- code of conduct
- occupational health and safety
- workplace harassment
- equal employment opportunity
- first aid
- infection control
- grievance procedure.
Code of conduct
A code of conduct or code of ethics is usually developed by the organisation as a statement of the principles by which they work. Depending on the culture and purpose of the organisation, the code of conduct may include:
- the nature of the relationship between clients and staff
- the need to treat people with dignity and respect
- issues relating to privacy and confidentiality
- issues relating to access to information
- the approach to working with clients, e.g. types of programs
- the need for personal awareness and development of staff
- the underlying philosophy of the organisation
- the need for honesty, social justice and accountability.
The public has a right to expect that human service organisations will treat them with honesty and integrity. Employees in this sector are expected to operate according to a code of conduct or principles.
Given the nature of your work, ethical dilemmas will arise. When this happens, refer to your organisation’s code of ethics but also talk to your supervisor and colleagues before you decide on a course of action.
The following activity allows you to explore some common ethical dilemmas faced by support workers and gives you an opportunity to discuss how you would handle these situations.