19 April 2024

Working together and collaborating as a case manager

As a case manager, one of the key aspects of your role will be to build relationships with people.

Guided by research-based approaches, case managers manage the rehabilitation and reintegration pathway for people in prison. To do that, they work closely with not only the person in prison, but also other people that can help them succeed - whānau/family, community organisations, and other Corrections staff.

Case manager Sefrosa shares her insights into some of the different relationships she builds and how they contribute to her mahi.

Working with other Corrections colleagues

Sefrosa says that having the opportunity to collaborate with other Corrections colleagues is crucial to helping get the best outcome for a person.

For her, that collaboration starts right when people first arrive in prison - each week Sefrosa attends huis with Principal Corrections Officers, Bail Support Officers, Programme Facilitators and Education Tutors to help place new arrivals and consider their rehabilitation needs while in prison.

“That could include considering things like their age, which may affect the unit where they are placed.

Or, as I’m working in a women’s prison, we might ask if the woman has a child under 2 years old. If so, and she needs support with applying for the Mothers with Babies Unit within our prison, then we see what we can do there.”

Sefrosa says that working with colleagues across the organisation helps to make this process, and their work in general, go far more smoothly. For example, a Corrections Officer might ask questions to a Bail Support Officer around a particular aspect of the justice process. The Corrections Officer can then relay that back to the women in prison, helping to increase understanding for everyone.

“It's about understanding each other's roles, getting a better flow of the mahi and avoiding confusion.”

After that initial hui, collaboration continues as teams share information to assist with different tasks. Education teams might share information with Sefrosa for someone’s rehabilitation pathway, for example, or Sefrosa might work with probation teams when it comes time to plan for a person's release.

“We also get to do some trainings with other staff members - for example, our mental health training is undertaken jointly with probation officers,” Sefrosa says.

Case manager Sefrosa stands against a walll painted pink with red and blue korus

Case manager Sefrosa

Other organisations, family/whānau and people in prison

As well as her Corrections colleagues, Sefrosa says there are a range of other people that she might connect with.

“One initiative that we have specifically for tane and wahine, for example, is Hōkai Tapuwae. As part Hōkai Tapuwae, community based Māori organisations will meet with the individual to discuss their whakapapa and cultural identity, and to present their place within te Ao Māori. This information can then be used to strengthen and complement how we approach that person’s pathway.”

Other organisations that Sefrosa might work with could include Out of Gate, accommodation agencies, the Salvation Army, and Dress for Success.

Case managers also work with the NZ Parole Board, providing them with assessments and recommendations to help them make decisions. They may help to prepare someone in prison for parole, attend parole hearings, and gather insights from staff such as psychologists.

Working with family can also play an important role. Sefrosa says that engagement from family/whānau while someone is completing a programme or course, can be very meaningful.

“We can invite them to be part of someone’s education pathway, for example, if the person wants them to. I’ve had women say ‘oh my mum will be so disappointed if I don’t finish this so I want her to be involved.’ It’s about having that accountability and support.”

Developing the skills to build great relationships

Sefrosa says that with collaboration and relationship building being key to the role, you need to be a good listener and communicator. This is important for all the different people that case managers work with but is perhaps most key for their interactions with the people in prison.

“At the end of the day, they are the leader of their own pathway; our role is to show them what rehabilitation supports are available and how they will benefit from it.”

Sefrosa herself started as a Corrections Officer, which she says helped with the relationship building aspect, though there are also different techniques and trainings that help new Case Managers to upskill.

Along with great people skills, she says that being able to practise self-care is important.

“In this role, like with other roles where you’re working with people, your energy levels can be affected because you’re putting a lot into being that supporter and guide. So, it’s about trusting your peers and looking after yourself.”

Having a strong sense of purpose also helps, with Sefrosa saying that she frequently grounds herself with her “why” - what doing this role means to her, and the value of working together.

“We need to work together to support and guide in the same direction, for the success of the people we work with, as well as our communities.”

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