Using a crisis to connect and care

When staff were injured in a riot at a Youth Justice centre, management knew they had to find a new way to deal with not just the physical injuries, but the psychological ones too.

The Connect and Care team.

The Connect & Care team

The ensuing collaboration between the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ), QBE Insurance Australia and icare culminated in the highly successful Connect & Care program.

Its implementation resulted in significant improvements in recovery and return-to-work outcomes and, in March 2021, the project team was selected as one of 10 icare Industry Champions.

Psychological and physical injuries caused by riot

Around 20 Youth Justice employees were injured during the incident in July 2019. The injuries were not just physical—they were psychological too.

Kirk Folkard, Assistant Manager Youth Justice, says the impact on the health and wellbeing of all staff was devastating.

"When icare and QBE reached out to Youth Justice to assist our employees who had suffered psychological injuries that day, we saw the opportunity to do something innovative and meaningful," he says.

Farah Shams, Risk and Innovation Manager, QBE Insurance, explains how they got together to develop a new way of assisting people who had suffered complex injuries.

"Working as a team was crucial, as we were able to collaborate, learn from our combined expertise and build viable solutions to improve the recovery process for everyone impacted by the riot," says Farah.

"The program was so well received that we are planning to use it more widely, with DCJ and other NSW Government agencies. Our recognition as an Industry Champion further enhances its value."

Connect & Care

The Connect & Care program was co-designed to:

  • Upskill managers and provide them with the tools they need to better respond to the specific needs of people injured.
  • Improve engagement, connections and support between staff and leadership to reduce the frequency and severity of physical and psychological injuries.

It is composed of three workshops covering complex trauma; the workers compensation ecosystem; an introduction to best-practice care; an understanding of the world of a vulnerable worker; and ways of supporting workers using empathetic connection and engagement.

Research has found that a poor relationship between a line manager and a worker who has experienced a complex injury will result in a negative impact on their recovery and return to work. This is confirmed by the responses from the people injured at the riot.

"In contrast," says Kirk, "there is evidence that a good relationship can result in an improved return to health.

"That is why we set up Connect & Care: by involving operational and executive leaders in the development of the solutions and frameworks we were able to achieve successful outcomes."

John Sheeba, icare's Interim Chief of Claims Operations, congratulated the project team.

"This program is based on a simple premise but its effectiveness was achieved through the co-design approach and the appropriate engagement of leaders who were committed to improving the outcomes for both the injured workers and their managers as they navigated through their recovery," says John.

The feedback says it all

Feedback from a manager who participated:

"It was hard for us to feel empathy when we were still hurting. The training made me realise that this information is a necessity and part of my role as a manager. Having your assistance has been really powerful."

Employees also commented:

"I was very nervous about admitting I was having troubles. The Justice Safety Unit [employee] has been lovely, and I have never felt so supported. It's important to not let other people influence how you feel about workers compensation. I am feeling a lot better due to the support and hopefully will be a better person and employee as a result."

"They are very understanding and patient and try to do all they can to be supportive of my recovery and wellbeing."

Industry Champions

icare's Industry Champions was a unique program for 2020, replacing the well-respected recognition program the Care and Service Excellence (CASE) Awards, due to COVID-19.

The team was selected as one of 10 icare Industry Champions, recognising them as stewards of excellence in the delivery of insurance and care services for the people, businesses and communities of NSW.

Connect & Care is a joint Champion in the category 'Excellence in Innovation in Injury Management'.