With 40,000 clients, Open Arms helps some of the country’s most vulnerable people and their loved ones.
- Open Arms, the government’s advice service, serves 40,000 clients
- However, the Royal Commission on Suicide found its main policies to be out of date
- Open Arms says major reforms are already underway and customer service remains strong
The State Counseling Service works with veterans and their families who are dealing with the trauma of military service and the challenges of transitioning back to civilian life.
However, senior Department for Veterans Affairs (DVA) bosses said on Thursday that Open Arms customers were potentially at risk.
Speaking before the Royal Commission into Veterans Affairs and Suicide, representatives from the DVA and Open Arms admitted there was an “unacceptable” situation where key policy documents were potentially years out of date, with many still in draft form.
Gabriela Rubagotti, who assisted the commission’s counsel, suggested it was “absurd” that some key policy documents, including those covering customer service, clinical assessment and data storage, never got past the draft stage and were not considered more than two years. years as required by the DVA.
DVA’s Leanne Cameron — the agency’s first assistant secretary for mental health and well-being — agreed and said major reform was already underway.
“One of my challenges in this role was to make sure we had the right settings in place around assessment, quality and safety,” Ms Cameron said.
“That’s what I’m doing, but it’s still very much a work in progress.”
Ms Cameron agreed that outdated policy documents could potentially affect customer service.
Consultant assistance: Would you also agree that in these circumstances, an outdated policy can negatively impact or affect the customer because employees don’t necessarily know how to implement the appropriate policy?
Leanne Cameron: He definitely has the potential to do so.
Consultant assistance: Given the services that Open Arms provides to the most vulnerable veteran communities, as you have indicated, do you agree that outdated policies may create a systemic risk of adverse mental health outcomes?
Leanne Cameron: He has the potential to do so.
Consultant assistance: And you would even say, even to suicide and attempted suicide and suicide?
Leanne Cameron: Suicidality is so multifactorial that it has the potential for it, yes.
Consultant assistance: Under the circumstances, do you think there is a real question about Open Arms’ recognition of responsibility to the veterans community?
Leanne Cameron: yes.
Ms Cameron and Open Arms national manager Leonie Howard said issues such as out-of-date policies were primarily back-end issues and any risks that arose “would not be as great” because of quality care.
“We attract and employ very experienced physicians who are very passionate and committed to the veteran community and their families,” Ms. Howard said.
“We take clinical accountability very seriously, while at the same time looking at back-office things like systems as not contributing to opportunities for best practice.”
Thursday was the last day of public hearings for the commission in Darwin.
Its next hearing will be held in Wagga next month, and the commission is due to issue its final report by June 2024.