Prison counsellor who had relationship with inmate breached professional standards - HDC

Prison counsellor who had relationship with inmate breached professional standards - HDC

A Prison counsellor who formed a 'personal' and 'intimate' relationship with an inmate  breached professional and ethical standards the Health and Disability Commissioner found. 

The Deputy HDC released a report on Monday which found a counsellor in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers rights, for developing a 'personal' and 'intimate' relationship with her client, who was a prisoner.

The report concerning the development of a personal and intimate relationship between a counsellor and her client, highlights the importance of health providers maintaining professional boundaries and relationships with consumers.

The Health and Disability Commissioner Kevin Allen received a complaint from the Department of Corrections about the appropriateness of the services provided by the counsellor to the prisoner.

The counsellor provided counselling to the man from May 2017 until his transfer to another prison in April 2018.

From January to April 2018, the man telephoned the counsellor on 56 occasions. The conversations were recorded and were 'personal' and 'domestic' in nature.

When the man was transferred from the second prison to a residential facility, both he and the counsellor told staff at the facility, they were in an intimate relationship. The counsellor visited the man on several occasions and sent him gifts and money.

The Deputy Commissioner considered that by developing a personal and intimate relationship with the man while he was at the prison and while he was residing at the residential facility, the counsellor breached professional and ethical standards.

Corrections stated that any allegations of inappropriate behaviour between a staff member, contractor, visitor or otherwise, with individuals in prison are taken seriously. Corrections stated: “We acknowledge the power imbalance that such a context provides and are acutely aware of the safety risk to all parties involved.”

The Deputy Commissioner recommended that should the counsellor return to work as a counsellor, NZAC would  require her to undertake further training on ethical and boundary issues, and that she be mentored regularly.