A ground-breaking South Australian program that’s had a profound impact on the mental health of correctional services staff has been recognised at this year’s International Corrections and Prison Association conference.
The SAHMRI Wellbeing and Resilience Centre (WRC) and the South Australian Department for Correctional Services (DCS) shared the Correctional Excellence - Management and Staff Training Award.
WRC Director Gabrielle Kelly describes significant, measurable outcomes for participants and the broader community over the three-year life of the program.
“DCS staff’s wellbeing scores have increased year-on-year to the point where they’re now higher than the average South Australian,” Ms Kelly said.
“This has delivered tangible benefits including reduced sick leave at a saving of around $700,000, and an 80 per cent reduction in mental stress claims at a saving of more than $2 million.”
DCS Chief Executive David Brown says the success of the program owes largely to the collaborative approach of WRC and commitment of the 750 staff who took part.
“Careers in corrections can be very challenging at times and resilience is a very valuable trait among our staff,” he said.
“The WRC facilitators have been exceptional in their work, but this program couldn’t have survived, let along thrived, without the investment from our staff in wanting to help themselves and each other.”
Ms Kelly agreed, saying the program’s LIMBER (Lead, Initiate, Measure, Build and Embed wellbeing and resilience within a Research-based framework) approach is designed to give the workforce ownership of their personal development and deliver sustainable behaviour change.
“We were determined that this be a whole-of-system approach to encourage not just learning but cultural change,” Ms Kelly said.
“By training existing DCS staff to deliver this program, it becomes something they live and encourage every day, rather than just a workshop they attend and forget about.”
The Minister for Correctional Services, the Honourable Corey Wingard, says international recognition for the program is thoroughly deserved.
“This is another example of South Australia being at the forefront of global innovation, particularly in the mental health and wellbeing space,” Min. Wingard said.
“Our Government is proud to support this vital program that is delivering a healthier, more productive workforce for the greater good of our community and the economy.”
While proud of the recognition of what the program has achieved, Ms Kelly says its greatest asset is its adaptability.
“DCS has been magnificent in supporting this program for its staff, and together we’re investigating other ways it could benefit the system and the community,” she said.
“Having seen the impact this has had over the past three years, we’re also confident our program can be tailored to deliver similar wellbeing and resilience growth in pretty much any workforce.”