UFBA boosts the Advocacy & Support Service volunteer network to 18 people

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Since its inception, the UFBA A&S service has supported FENZ personnel in more than 365 cases, ranging from simple advice through to complex cases.  65.5% of cases were people seeking advocacy or support, and 34.5% seeking advice from the UFBA.

This service is funded under contract by Fire and Emergency NZ who by law are required to provide FENZ volunteers with access to independent advocacy and support, at no charge. 

Whilst there is some protection for volunteers through other statutory laws such as the Crimes Act, Privacy Act and the Bill of Rights Act, the principles of natural justice (fairness, transparency, timeliness, freedom from bias and pre-determination) are what the UFBA Advocacy & Support service is based on.

“My job is to make sure that all volunteers who ask for help, have their rights under common law protected” says Megan Devine, UFBA Advocacy & Support Advisor.

The majority of cases managed by the UFBA are resolved within 7 days with some taking much longer due to the complexity of the case or where progress is reliant on other independent parties (i.e. pending criminal trial dates).   

Cases involve a wide variety of situations, from COVID-19, Model Rules, a breach of process, privacy, issues with command and control, health & safety, and matters of misconduct such as bullying.  “We help volunteers with legal paperwork, explaining processes, providing advice, and supporting them at meetings and interviews – anything that makes the process less daunting for them” says Megan.

In addition to paid personnel, the UFBA Advocacy & Support Service is boosted by a total of 18 volunteers (at least 3 per FENZ region). All are fully trained to provide professional services to volunteers.  Feedback from members is that at times, they value the support of a volunteer colleague – volunteers helping volunteers.  The more complex and highly-sensitive cases are managed by paid personnel. 

Support from the UFBA is available to both sides of a case, with procedures in place to protect the very important ethical wall that must exist between parties, protecting the integrity of the advice and support available.

To lessen a need to use the service and/or to be the subject of a complaint, Megan Devine encourages people to use the TGU test – “Is what you’re about to say – true, good, or useful?  and if not, just don’t say it”, and to resolve small things before they escalate.

If you are feeling concerned about anything, big or small, please do connect with the confidential UFBA Advocacy & Support Service:  support@ufba.org.nz or 0508 832 269