Lifeline, perhaps more widely known for its national phone support services, has had a minor revolution in the way its Mt Gambier team of financial counsellors, problem gambling workers and income support staff see and do their work for the local South East community.
Lifeline South East’s CEO Eve Barratt, pictured at left above with her team members Kathryn Rogers and Bronwyn Martin, explains.
‘Even before Donna Mayhew’s Information Sharing Guidelines workshop in April, the issue of informed consent was on our minds. Two of our clients had got into serious financial trouble this year signing agreements without really understanding what they were doing.
‘At the very next staff meeting we started looking at how well our clients were able to make informed choices working with our organisation. How much did they know and understand at each stage, how did it work for a client with an intellectual disability or from a different culture and what about the man who would sign anything to get it over with?
‘It was exciting and challenging as we peeled away ethical and practical issues that led us to completely overhaul our counselling procedures. We redesigned all of our client information packs and made changes to the many related policies that had an effect on the experience of clients.
‘This way of looking at how we work has carried over into other areas like our child-safe policy and risk management. Some practices that had grown up unquestioned suddenly looked quite different from a client point of view.
‘You can get caught up in the day-to-day operations and the client’s perspective can become a bit remote. But this process, triggered by the Information Sharing Guidelines, has opened our minds and become one of the best things we ever did.
‘We rightly expect businesses and financial institutions to make sure people fully understand what they are getting into before they sign contracts. So we should apply the same standards to ourselves, making it clear to the clients who come through our doors what they can and cannot expect from us and how they and their information will be treated.’
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