State Services Commission Inquiry Statement
- Created: 18 December 2018
Southern Response accepts the findings of the State Services Commission Inquiry and sincerely apologises to its customers for the inappropriate actions it identified.
In 2014, Southern Response engaged Thompson and Clark (TCIL) to assess and monitor the risk to the safety of its staff. This was underpinned by the principle that Southern Response staff have the right to go to work every day without being threatened or abused.
The Inquiry acknowledges these threats; “…at least five direct death threats (which were reported to the Police), seven further serious threats of harm, and 22 cases of harassment or abuse, including the targeting of staff in the community outside working hours.” Section 3.13
As an employer, Southern Response has a duty of care to provide a safe working environment, and to protect the health and safety of our staff. This was acknowledged in the findings of the Inquiry:
“…in engaging Thompson and Clark to provide other services that did not involve surveillance, Southern Response acted responsibly in balancing concerns about individual customers against wider threats to the company.” Section 3.147
The Inquiry found; “There was no evidence that SRES used Thompson and Clark to carry out targeted surveillance of individual claimants, or discriminated against disaffected claimants in settlements.” Section 1.13
However, the Inquiry found that TCIL engaged a contractor to attend and record public meetings held by a group of claimants. There was an expectation that these public meetings were not to be attended by Southern Response nor recordings provided to Southern Response. The records were subsequently destroyed by the contractor and not retained by TCIL or Southern Response.
The Inquiry found that Southern Response acted inconsistently with the State Services Code of conduct for two of these meetings between 13 March 2014 and 31 May 2014, and in breach of the code for two meetings between 1 January 2015 and 12 May 2016.
This was not an acceptable approach and also a breach of our customers’ trust. Southern Response accepts this finding and offers an unreserved apology for those actions.
We apologise for the attendance of a TCIL contractor at these claimant group meetings where our customers had a right to feel they could express their views freely and without Southern Response’s knowledge. These actions contributed to distrust and stress for our customers and we apologise for this. Southern Response reiterates its commitment to our customers’ rights to privacy, their democratic right to protest or engage with institutions set up to support fair democratic process such as the Ombudsman or the Privacy Commissioner.
All material supplied to the Inquiry, subject to the application of the Official Information Act 1982 and provisions of the Privacy Act 1993, is available http://southernresponse.co.nz/docman/ssc