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Graemea & CYF New Zealand

Graeme Axford documents his Employment dispute with Child Youth & Family, (CYF) New Zealand

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First Meeting in Greymouth

Draft Record of Discussion

Present:
  Graeme Axford
  Paula Attrill
  Shona Hickey

Location: Unemployed Workers Rights Centre Greymouth
Date and Time: Oct 12 11.00 am

Opening and Introductions

Paula Attrill opened the meeting and thanked Graeme for making the time to meet. She explained she was open to hearing his views. Shona Hickey was present for HR input and to record the discussion and the agreed outcomes.

Paula asked Graeme to speak about the events that have taken place and what his concerns were.

Graeme spoke of six main points of concern:

  1. Graeme explained that he applied for the position outside of the Main Stream Programme as he wanted to gain a position on his own credibility. He was frustrated in hearing the "best person for the job" is part of the selection criteria and felt this immediately disadvantages him due to his disability.
  2. Graeme took his laptop to the interview with the hope of using it to help him with the work sample. He did not ask to use the laptop and the panel chair did, not notice he had it with him. Graeme felt he could have provided a higher standard if he had been given the opportunity to use his laptop. (See note on page 7)
  3. Graeme explained that he wrote the work sample in the way he had been trained and can understand that CYF concluded as it did as he had not answered the questions in the way that was required by CYF standards and made apparent afterwards by the feedback. (See note on page 6)
  4. Graeme felt that there may have been some resistance from CYF for the Main Stream programme.
  5. Graeme felt his family connection being a CYF client could be a problem. He explained that he informed his brother in-law that he was applying for the position with CYF. His brother in-law immediately told his niece and it became a family issue.
  6. Graeme acknowledged that it may be interpreted as an extreme measure to indicate through his correspondence that he may go to the Media. He felt compelled to do this because he felt CYF had not made an effort to acknowledge and address his concerns. He also stated that he appreciated this opportunity to meet in person to discuss his concerns.

Main Stream Programme

The Main Stream programme was raised. It is understood that positions need to be available in any Government Department before an appointment can be made. Graeme gave details that he understood if an appointment is made through the programme that there is no guarantee of a position at the end of the first year or the second year. He also stated that the Employer may raise at any time if the working relationship is not working which may result in ending of the Main Stream appointment agreement.

Graeme asked if he is unsuccessful with his second application, would Christine McKenna consider the Main Stream programme as an option for him to gain employment with CYF.

Paula explained that the Main Stream programme had not been on CYF's radar until Graeme raised it as an option. Christine McKenna's focus was on filling the vacancies at the Greymouth site. From a CYF point of view Main Stream is a separate process from our recruitment process and it is important to keep the two separate.

Graeme gave details of how he felt it would be a difficult transition undertaking the job of a statutory Social Worker as outlined in the feedback and agreed he does not have the experience required at the moment. Graeme felt that these issues could be resolved with ongoing training and supervision. Through the mainstream programme he felt he had a chance as the programme supports on-the-job training. Because of this he would prefer to seek employment with CYF through the Main Stream programme however acknowledges that Chris McKenna has the right to say no to a position through Main Stream.

Paula clarified that Main Stream is not an option at this time.

Recruitment Process and Vacancies

Paula explained that the position Graeme applied for had two Social Work vacancies. These were filled with other short listed applicants. Paula went on to clarify with Graeme that he had come third in the recruitment and scoring process. Graeme acknowledge that he was not aware of this and was happy to move on with the discussion.

Paula described the processing of Graeme's application. The process that had taken place, including the short listing criteria, involved fair treatment being applied to all applications, including Graeme's. She pointed out that Graeme had been measured equally and fairly along side the other applicants. Graeme explained he felt that statement in itself is unintentional discrimination. As he processes things differently, so any comparison to someone who does not suffer from dyslexia, in his view is wrong.

Graeme suggested that he could fill in vacancy gaps at the Greymouth Site while the current vacancies are being filled. Paula's stated that this is not the nature of the work at CYF. What is required to meet the needs of clients and families is the right person in the job. This is done by following a rigorous and transparent recruitment process. (See notes on page 7)

Paula emphasised to Graeme that he will be contacted and will be interviewed for the current Social Worker vacancy. Now that there is a much greater understanding of his disability, the panel will be able to prepare accordingly, accommodate and respond in a fair and transparent manner.

Again it was stated and clearly understood that Main Stream is not an option at this time. Graeme expressed his frustration with CYF in his understanding of staff being able to gain a qualification while employed with CYF. He pointed out that he is already qualified and was unsuccessful in gaining a Social Work position.

Paula explained that while qualifications are an important part of becoming a statutory Social Worker for CYF, this is only one part of the recruitment assessment. Many other factors are considered such as interpersonal skills, analytical thinking, past experience and the capability match within the role are also very important.

Communication

Graeme explained that he would have preferred to communicate locally with Christine McKenna and explained that he did not have her email address. He claimed this is the reason he had sent emails to Peter Hughes in Wellington. He had tried to obtain Christine's email address from the CYF Call Centre but they would not give it out to him.

Paula raised the emails sent to National Office by Graeme noted his assertion that there had been discrimination during the recruitment process. This was a concern to the Organisation given it felt a fair and transparent process had been followed.

Graeme explained that for him the interview was cut and dry. He became annoyed with the feedback given to him, that he felt judged by the level of Social Work competency required which indicated he is not at the level required

Graeme assumed because there was no mention of his disability, this was not considered during and after the interview, as evidenced by the feedback write-up. Making no mention of this was at odds with other organisations views and was unusual in his opinion.

Because of his disability Graeme feels that when anyone says the best person for the position will get the job, applicants with better literacy skills automatically have the advantage, and that practical ability is not considered.

Paula responded by explaining that CYF have a higher "duty of care" when employing the right skills and abilities of the Social Workers. This approach is essential because of the complex and demanding nature of work carried out at the front line.

Graeme signalled that the "written version" of him and "verbal version" are completely different. He stated he did not feel he was intentionally discriminated but that is how it felt at the time.

Reference was again made about emailing senior staff at the CYF National Office. Paula suggested nominating a senior manager to be a direct contact person for Graeme throughout the next recruitment process. Graeme agreed to this.

Paula reiterated that she appreciated that contact may be made with the Minister and the CE and that it is his prerogative to contact them if he so wished. The intention of nominating a senior manager was to provide a local communication path for Graeme. Paula arranged to follow up and arrange for this to occur.

Graeme explained that he thought the response from Pam Walkinshaw was evasive. He put hours of work into his five page letter and was not happy with the one page response.

Graeme was only advised by Pam that he was not successful in getting the position and that this decision had not changed. The letter did not address one single issue or advise him of further action he could take if he was dissatisfied with the response.

Through the course of the discussion held at this meeting he indicated he now understands the basis of the decision that was made and has no intention of going to the media at this point. Graeme said all he wanted was for his concerns to be taken seriously, not to be fobbed off or ignored, as he felt he had the right to resolution and up until this visit that had not happened to spite his repeated request, letters, emails and threats about going public.

Paula suggested that she is Graeme's main contact if he feels frustrated or if future responses to him are not meeting his needs. Graeme agreed to this suggestion. It was agreed that if Graeme feels the need to make contact with the Media, before doing so he committed to first contacting Paula by phone to discuss his issues.

Paula noted that if the Media is contacted, CYF would be likely to respond in a way that articulates the Departments view on the matter.

Graeme's Disability

Graeme's dyslexia was raised. Paula explained that it was unhelpful for the panel not knowing that he had a disability at the time of the interview and questioned why it had not been identified on the CYF Application Form. It made it very difficult for the panel to progress with the interview.

Once Graeme's disability was identified, Chrisine McKenna did everything in her ability to assist with Graeme's needs. She did this by reading the work sample to Graeme and insuring he understood what was required to complete the exercise. Graeme apologised and said he should have let the panel know he has dyslexia at the start of the interview and not end as happened. Graeme felt that as he did clearly state he had dyslexia on the application form, this would have been picked up during the screening and shortlisting process, to enable clarification on what this entailed, thus enabling the interviewing panel to prepare themselves before the interview, or to contact Graeme asking him to provide the Educational Psychologist's report beforehand if required.

It was near the end of the interview Graeme realised by the panel's reaction that like him they had been unprepared for dealing with his disability. By then he felt it was too late to recover.

Graeme explained that in his current work he makes notes with his Dictaphone, and uses dragon naturally speaking with text to speech software that understands his disability, i.e. that he writes differently to how he speaks. Because of his limitations with written words he is often misinterpreted or conveys something different from what is in his head and what comes across on paper. He chooses and changes words to suit his ability to spell, which can create misunderstanding and lack of clarity.

Agreed to write up the record of discussions and send to Graeme for agreement by early next week. This will occur before Graeme's scheduled interview.

Meeting Summary

Paula will identify a senior Manager who will be available for Graeme through the course of the next recruitment process while the application for a Social Work vacancy is being processed.

Paula will be available in the event Graeme feels inclined to escalate concerns to our CE, the Minister or the media. Graeme will contact Paula directly before escalating matters in the future.

Paula clarified there is currently no opportunity for a Mainstream position for a Social Worker to be established in the Greymouth office.

An interview for the current Social Work vacancy will be offered. Both Graeme and Paula indicated a willingness to work together over the next period. This will ensure that there are open lines of communication in order for Graeme to be clear about decisions made by CYF and CYF is clear about any concerns Graeme may have that he feels are not being adequately responded to.

Graeme again expressed disappointment about CY&F not taking on mainstream program making a comparison with the recruitment bonding and training program. He believes this to be costly for the department. Graeme explained the difference is in his case he is already qualified and the department gets fully funded for having him. Graeme stated it seems ironic and unfair at a time the department complains of a shortage of Social Workers the mainstream option was not considered, especially given all the aforementioned cost involved and the other option of recruiting people from overseas at a cost.

Graeme also explained that when he first undertook his Social Work qualification, most of the tutors, like Child Youth and Family, expressed reservations. He senses the same resistance (vibe). However, while it has not been easy for everyone involved, Graeme did measure up and made the grade.

Graeme felt if CYF had checked up with his referees they would have had many of the areas of concern in the interview feedback letter answered, and that the five-page letter in reply to that feedback clearly dispels their concerns.

Meeting closed at 11.50 am

I certify that the information recorded in this document is a true and accurate record of the meeting held in Greymouth on Thursday 12 October 2006.

Signature: Paula Attrill Regional Director Southern
Signature: Graeme Axford

The following comment has been added at Graeme's request.

As the meeting was to discuss the correspondence and issues I felt to add the following notes to explain my reasoning. These notes are my opinion and while mentioned in earlier correspondence some were not specifically raised at the meeting.

Table of Content  Page 4 of 28

 

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