Firstly, let’s define policy and procedures.
A policy is a course of action or guidelines to be followed whereas a procedure is the ‘nitty gritty’ of the policy, outlining what has to be done to implement the policy. For example, a staff recruitment policy could involve the following procedures:
Most community service organisations will have in place policies and procedures that govern and regulate privacy and confidentiality of client information. This concept not only applies to what you can disclose about your clients or your organisations outside of work, but also what can be shared in network meetings. What information can be shared with other organisations, who shares it and how this information is given out should be clearly defined in any effective, professional service. It is often incorporated into a worker’s duty statement or job description.
All organisations should have written policy and procedures, and staff training in the following areas:
For instance, the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (providing accommodation support for homeless people) outlines its policy in the Case Management Resource Kit for SAAP Services, 1997. It states that all information regarding clients will be kept in the filing cabinet for up to 5 years before being archived. All information regarding clients will be destroyed 7 years after the client ceases to receive services.
The agency is responsible for providing policy and procedural guidelines that support the practice of services. Policies and procedures must reflect legislation and ethical standards of the community services sector.
Quality of service delivery is dependent on the responsibility of both the organisation and the worker in following the policies that guide service delivery.
A list of such policy documents is:
As well, there are legal documents which provide protocols for:
CSI services are influenced by two sorts of policy:
For example, the NSW Disability Services Act is broad government policy which impacts heavily on policy developed by organisations funded by the NSW Ageing, Disability and Home Care Department.
All funded services must comply with the Act in order to receive funding and there must be clear guidelines that organisations must follow such as having complaints procedures, assessing clients’ individually and ensuring that clients have an opportunity to make decisions about the service provided to them.
Another example is the Equal Opportunity Act, which would influence the development of a policy such as the staff recruitment policy discussed a bit earlier.
In this learning topic we are focussing on the second type of policy (organisational policy) but you still need to understand the impact of broader government policy on the development of organisational policy.
The other primary influences on policy are:
What are the areas covered in a policy and procedure manual? This can vary depending on the nature of the organisation, but may include:
Following is an example of a policy and procedures manual from the Carmen Poldis Community Centre. The contents page shows you everything detailed in the manual, while the extracts give you examples of
Carmen Poldis Community Centre (.doc 29 kB)
If you get the opportunity through a CSI related job or vocational placement, ask to have a look at the policies and procedures manual for the organisation.
The written documents can vary dramatically depending on the:
Working within organisational policy and procedures is not as simple as reading policy and procedure manuals. Policy is not just the written word. A critical aspect of policy is the way in which it is interpreted by various people and the way it is implemented (‘the way things are done around here’). For example, the organisation may have a written policy that staff meetings occur every second Wednesday. However what you notice is that all staff members go to the staff room and an informal catch-up about recent events and team tasks occurs over lunch a couple of times a week instead of at a formal meeting. If you were to go out every day for lunch, you would miss this valuable networking time.
To ensure that you are always working within policy and procedures, you need to:
The following activity explores the importance of working within organisational policy and procedures.
Julie is a disability worker in a respite care facility for young people with a disability. She has recently started her job. Julie has been busy since starting the job and hasn’t had a chance to learn about the organisation’s policy and procedures. One day, she is the only staff member on duty at the house when there is a very unpleasant altercation between two of the residents. Both of the young people involved have a significant intellectual disability and difficulty in communicating their feelings. Julie makes a mental note to mention it to her supervisor when she is next in.
Julie comes in the next day to find that the staff members on the next shift were not aware of the incident and organised for the two clients involved to move into the same room. Apparently one of the clients became very distressed and ran away, leave the night staff very perplexed.
Lack of adherence to policy and procedure can cause embarrassing blunders that damage your own professional reputation and even worse, cause harm and unnecessary angst for the clients.
One of the most critical client-focussed policy and procedures is the policy outlining the process of how clients are accepted into a service. This is an important area to maintain consistency of approach between workers in a service and ensure that the client is given a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities if they do choose to become involved with the service. In other words, it is about ensuring that clients are accepted into the service on the basis of clear transparent eligibility criteria and that they have a clear understanding of what is involved in accessing the service.
Policy and procedures regarding this issue should contain guidelines about:
The more transparent the process from the start, the more likely a service will attract appropriate referrals, prospective clients will be treated equally, clients will have realistic expectations and be empowered to seek the support they need. Remember, first impressions are always important! The more organised, systematic and thorough you are in the initial entry and assessment process, the less capacity for misunderstandings later on.
There will be times (hopefully not often) when you are unsure about what is expected of you in the workplace. Sometimes, organisations are not well resourced in terms of staff and basic orientation for new workers is hurried and incomplete (called ‘being thrown in at the deep end’). You may have been given unclear instructions for a task from your supervisor, and you’re not sure how to go about it or whether it is your responsibility anyway. Sometimes colleagues might also ask you to do something that may not be your responsibility.
This kind of confusion leads to conflict if it is not resolved. It’s important that you seek clarification with your manager or supervisor, to clearly define what is expected of you. Always use your job or position description (discussed earlier) as a point of reference. By clarifying confusion promptly, you may gain a better understanding of what your responsibilities are and how they relate to your colleagues’ responsibilities.
We feel much more comfortable in the workplace when we know what is expected of us!
You are working in a drug and alcohol community education service where you have been employed for a few weeks. One of the workers (who has been working in the service for a number of years) asks you to attend an interagency and promote a new education programme coming up. You haven’t been involved in developing the programme and have never attended the interagency meetings. You feel anxious and confused about whether this task is your responsibility and how to go about it.
Policies and procedures should be regularly reviewed in order to ensure they reflect current good practice and legal requirements. Policies should be reviewed:
As previously stated, you are required to be familiar with the policies and procedures of your employer organisation and to act in accordance with these.
Most workplaces have committees made up of management representatives and workers to regularly review the policies and procedures of the service.
By being aware of your own professional code of ethics, your job description and your workplace requirements, you are in a good position to be aware of any policies or procedures that could be improved or need replacing. You may be able to be a part of a committee itself or you may ask to contribute to such development within your workplace. There may also be legislative requirements for you and other workers to acquire knowledge about.
As you update and improve your expertise you are gaining new knowledge and skills on good practice based on current service methods. This may lead you to make suggestions to your team or the person in charge, about new or modified policies so that the service is up to date with current issues.
For example, you may learn from reading that there is a better way to provide some aspect of service than your service is presently offering. You may want to bring this (or some other matter) to the attention of the other staff or even the person in charge. You may make a suggestion which is accepted and this could lead to a change of policy in this matter. This could result possibly in a change for the better for the clients.
How you contribute is very important. No service wants to hear something that is presented as a criticism.
If you have a suggestion about a changed or new policy idea, you should:
If the new information is seen as important to act on, make sure there is a ‘who’ and a ‘when’ next to it. That means someone is responsible for following it through and developing the policy or protocol, and that there is some time when they need to report back on it.
You can contribute by:
How would you act in the following situation?
You have been reading about a recent new theory that affects the service where you work, and you feel that the service’s policies should change to reflect the current thinking.
Activity: Policy or procedures for monitoring, reviewing and evaluation
Many questions that workers might ask can be answered by organisational documentation. However, there will always be situations that arise where there is no clear documentation to guide actions. In which case, consultation is essential with your team leader, agency manager, service director or clinical supervisor, where applicable.