Good Practice Team day II Training 17/4/2011

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Good Practice Team day II
Good Practice Team day II
Project Good practice (Torture Victims)
Place Future Worlds Center premises, Nicosia, Cyprus
Date(s) 17th April 2011
Type of participants URVT associates
Number of participants 8
Total Duration a full day



On the 17th of April 2011, URVT Associates gathered at the Future Worlds Center's premises in Nicosia, Cyprus to discuss staff-care as part of project Good practice (Torture Victims).

Introduction

Vicky Germanakou: Presentation and highlights on the interim partner meeting of the project that took place in Warsaw, inventory and framework – progress – debate – expectations. Quick reminder - discussion on upcoming symposium hosted Cyprus/ expectations.

Tonia Loizidou: Presentation and Facilitation of the brainstorming task “map out your support system’ Taken the idea from our partners in Baff all staff members take an A4 sheet and draw or write a symbol for yourself in the center, then proceed to depict around it everything that you can think of that supports you in your work (friends/ relaxation at home/informal chats with your boss etc.). Try to show the nature of your connection with each of your supports, for example by drawing stronger or thinner connecting lines or by placing them closer or further from you. Then think about what things there are that block your access to these supports. Add them in the map too.

Vicky Germanakou: Presentation of Team Day II – agenda, clarifications, contribution Staff and leadership decided not to be separated and discuss all issues of concern together as one team. It is agreed that everyone will be heard equally and will be an open forum for expressing opinions and understanding of things and will not be a dialogue between people in the sense of argumentation but all have the chance to discuss, explain/ be explained and heard.


Discussion – Staff Needs

Team agreed to use as guideline the following questions:

What does it need in order to achieve better work results? How does the staff needs affect the improvement of its services? What are its likes and dislikes regarding the way of its operation and as regards leadership? What does leadership expect from the employees? How does the ideal employee look like for the organisation? What can the leadership provide in order to reassure a more effective environment for the staff?

Needs/ concerns the team expressed

Everyone needs to feel secure about salaries and payments

Lack or limited funds have been the biggest enemy of URVT and has created many problems to staff and the leadership in order to keep the operation of URVT. Staff feels uncertain both about their future as well as the treatment course of the beneficiaries. It limits their potential and long-term planning. They find themselves in the need to seek employment elsewhere and therefore staff members of URVT keep changing. While, everyone, even those who are no longer working in the Unit, are willing to assist in any way they can, it is not the same as having a strong, consistent team that builds up experience together. This further creates serious problems in the therapy course of the beneficiaries, as treatment is discontinued and they lose the established trust links with their therapist. Also, there are regular basic-training needs and restructuring needs for adjusting to the new circumstances. Leadership on this matter is concerned that not enough project proposal application are submitted in order to keep URVT sustainable. Team does not invest enough time in efforts to find funds, our organization is an NGO and there are nearly no other means of income and thus sustainability. This is how all other Units of the organization operate and is the way the organization runs. There is a constant writing up of applications and effort to find new funds to sustain projects and assure continuation of efforts. Staff feels the need to remove the burden of guilt for the lack of funds as it feels lesser compare to other projects in the organization. URVT, unlike most of the other projects that run under the organization, is a service based project which leaves no real time for organizing fundraising and general fund-hunting. URVT has created a culture (essentially reflects the needs of the project to create) of a self-running Unit, however it is not a self-sustained project and its culture is very different from the organization’s as a whole and that occasionally clashes.

A discussion on this continued in order to clarify the leadership’s idea of the organization and project management and how this can be adjusted to the needs of URVT that has somewhat different character than almost all other projects of the organization and thus more particular needs.

It is agreed that there is a need for better time management and better prioritization of tasks, in order to overcome this.

Better communication mechanisms with organization in order to feel part of the whole

It was suggested to have a person in charge (most probably a long-term intern of the Unit) of writing only applications and seeking funds for URVT. All are willing to contribute their part in a proposal and happy to assist with editing and context but it is very difficult to follow this task from scratch and dedicate continuous hours as they also see beneficiaries and things always come up that need immediate attention. So there is a need of a person to be responsible to coordinate and run this, in order to remove the constant funding stress from the staff.


Staff meetings

While there are regulated meetings (once a week) the team feels that are not enough – or are used in the wrong way. In most cases time is consumed with discussions around funding issues and administration problems instead of discussing case work.

As a result, although cases are generally discussed it stays on mostly the particulars and between the staff that are to provide immediate response and assistance. All expressed that cases should be presented to all in order to learn, have a more complete picture of the person of concern and thus provide better services working as a team.

Regular staff meetings should also spend more time in identifying needs and issues that come about – concerning government policies and procedures, in order to organize policies or agenda for actions e.g. writing articles, giving interviews, networking, research etc. Issues of concern always come up and are discussed, some actions are taken but in most cases there is no organized follow up or long term policy.


Staff needs to feel physical security

A case was reflected where a client was out of control because he refused psychiatric treatment and he had a relapse. Staff felt extremely exposed waiting for the police and ambulance to arrive. There were not many occasions that such incidents took place, however is not a matter of frequency but severity and risk.

Supervision

Supervision mechanism does not apply to legal advisor. There is no professional mechanism in place for legal advisor releasing stress caused by work. When difficult cases occur there are discussions but not in the sense of consultation-supervision support. The supervisor psychologist prioritizes meetings and discussions with psychotherapist and social counselor. This was noted, is mainly the result of time constrains and should be discussed further in order to find ways to work it out.


Discussion

Short introduction on this part of the day, everyone was encouraged to keep in mind the ‘map out our support system’ brainstorming task and try to pin down all mechanisms, formal or informal that are used as methods of staff care. Entire group: - Identify what mechanisms of staff care we already have in place in the organisation (e.g. supervision, team days, staff meetings etc) and discuss what is missing by compare and the aforementioned needs talked earlier - What would we like to change, what are we in control of really changing? - Identify action points, immediate, mid-term, long-term


Mechanisms already in place

Staff meetings

Weekly 2h staff meetings are taking place discussing a) issues arise, b) cases and c) policies to be followed. The issues that arise generally concern the structural, financial and administration problems that URVT faces. The discussion on cases aims in providing best treatment given the circumstances and legal restrictions, by taking into consideration the medical, psychological, social and legal needs of the beneficiaries reflecting their personal circumstances but also the social conditions of the local society and asylum procedures mechanisms of Cyprus. Regarding policies (government policies, legal gaps, lack of integration programs etc), staff discusses ways of addressing the external conditions that affect the rehabilitation process in order to improve the quality and positive impact of its services and how to act accordingly (advocacy, lobbying, awareness campaign etc.)

While this is the general structure of the staff meetings, in reality in the past good while the discussion on cases was rather limited and such discussions were mainly taking place between the supervisor psychologist and the psychotherapist/ social counselor. And where legal assistance was appropriate legal advisor was also involved. Most of the staff meeting time was occupied with discussions concerning funding and problems arise from financial limitations. Further to that the Unit’s personnel has changed significantly during the past months a fact which created a big shift in the dynamic of the team and required re-structuring anew.


Supervision

Supervisor psychologist offers de-briefing sessions when needed regulated on a weekly basis to the psychotherapist and the social counselor. These sessions were mainly occupied by discussion of specific cases and their complexities and how to handle the follow up and no real time was left for debriefing and focusing on the staff needs. This method is highly valued by staff and has been a very positive contribution to staff support and care. However, supervisor psychologist no longer works in the organization due to fund limitations.


Relaxation sessions

Relaxation sessions were regulated once a month for an hour and involved all staff (who wished to participate) using relaxation techniques facilitated by the psychotherapist of the Unit. Relaxation sessions however, were cancelled in several occasions, due to lack of time, however, those occurred were found very relaxing and stimulating by the participating staff. They provided the opportunity to relax within the work environment and also contribute in the empowerment of the team. It was a great opportunity to relax from thinking always cases and problems and to have a break.


Art-therapy

URVT in cooperation with an art-therapist provided (unfortunately only once) art-therapy session for the staff. During the session worries and needs of staff were expressed under the supervision and guidance of the therapist, by using drawing to express themselves and then discuss over them. This appeared to be very therapeutic and stress releasing. Group session also had the affect of all staff realizing each other needs and problems helping in understanding and building up team support.


Work benefits

The organization offers good working conditions, such as regulated salary payments including annual leave, access to social security benefits and health scheme, flexibility and understanding in arranging the holiday schedule/or days off as long as it does affect the operation of the Unit. The problem is that contracts are project-based and between the gaps of funds the organization is not able to cover sufficiently all financial needs. As a result there is no long-term job security unless is funding permitted.


Informal staff discussions

Informal discussion of cases between members of the staff occurs frequently and immediately when is needed so. This also involves the staff working in the organization under the UNCHR project. This is felt very helpful as it gives the opportunity to act promptly and have access to as many information as possible in order to do it correctly. Staff has easy and immediate access to each other for consultations and support on cases. It assists in resolving as efficiently as possible a situation and also to release stress as there is burden and knowledge share. However, this is most frequently used and often results in disruption from other tasks. Also it is found that this mechanism has the tendency to cover for the fact that often cases are not been discussed during staff meetings that would be the most appropriate to do so. Better management and use of this mechanism is important to take place.


Staff relations

Strong links of cooperation and intimate relation has emerged among the URVT staff and other staff of the organization which has assisted in a great way. When time and tasks permitted we have lunch together (if able even outside the office). Several gatherings were organized after work just to relax and chat. There is respect and trust on working approach of each staff and genuine cooperation relating to task sharing. Staff feels free to express itself and discuss openly with any of the colleagues. Staff has easy access to leadership and can discuss, express opinions and cooperate on resolving matters. Finally informal gathering are arranged by the leadership aiming at bringing all the staff of the organization together, release stress and feel part of the organisation’s team.

Networking

Staff has the opportunities on occasions to build network and participate in relating to its work seminars, conferences, workshops or partnerships e.g. this project. This is an area that assists greatly in improving the quality of services and to enrich already established mechanisms. Also it assists in exchanging experiences both in therapy but also sustainability. URVT also has been from its establishment in very close cooperation with the Rehabilitation Center of Athens for the treatment of victims of torture, which was responsible for its establishment and training, something that gave additional support and contributed in providing better services. Unfortunately Athens Center has stopped its operation, but there are further opportunities for cooperating with other institutes working on the field.

Change

  • Regulate staff meetings for in depth case study discussions with the whole group/ better time management – involve in more organized way in policy making / lobbying
  • Strengthen and manage better the existent structured mechanism of staff care adjust them to our reality.

Action points, immediate, mid-term, long-term

  • Immediate: Separate staff meetings on case discussion from meetings concerning the operation of the Unit. Keep weekly meetings for cases and set monthly meetings for the rest of issues unless urgency requires.
  • Mid –term: constant effort for strengthening network of volunteers/ interns, experts or officers from responsible authorities for supporting on crisis. Organizing more trainings for staff both on treatment and methods of staff care. Networking with international organizations on the field to utilize their experience and expertise.
  • Long-term: mechanisms on staff care well-established, sustainability (funding - a person in charge)

Summary, feedback and conclusions

There was a general feeling that Team Day II and generally this project is very helpful as it assists to self-evaluate and see our true structure and work culture.

It was very refreshing and also a good reminder on where the group was at and what is the flaws and potential.

Also it actually worked as staff-care method as it was all about expressing freely on needs, expectations and ideas. Everyone feels quite relaxed and motivated.

Participants