CLIENT ASSESSMENT PROCEDURES

For Individual Counselling & Couple Counselling

Introduction
Assessment of potential clients is regarded by ASCA North East as an essential element of the service in order to ensure suitability through the identification of risk elements and other contraindications. Suitability needs to take into account the fact that counsellors in the ASCA service come from a wide range of professional backgrounds and can be at very different levels of experiences.

1.

1.1

Policies

ASCA, North East is committed to ensuring that an assessment is achieved as soon as possible following the initial referral. Potential clients are made aware of likely time delays before individual counselling can be offered.

1.2
Enquiries by ASCA North East staff at first contact seek to identity certain basic characteristics such as age and address and client issues, which may eliminate the potential client from eligibility for a service. Information about known alternative services will be offered.

1.3
Client assessments are completed by an experienced assessor with specific training in risk assessment and knowledge of onward referral options locally.

1.4
ASCA North East endeavours to ensure, through the information gained at assessment, that clients accepted into the service are referred to a counsellor who has reached an appropriate level of ability to work with their issues.

1.5
Counsellors are strongly encouraged to see assessment as an ongoing process and use supervision or discussion with ASCA North East to consider onward referral if they uncover client issues which may be unsuitable for them to work with.

2.

2.1

Procedure

The ASCA North East assessment process requires completion of a form by the assessor, which includes key areas of information to assist in risk assessment and appropriate onward referral, within the service or, possibly, to another service.

2.2

Areas of unsuitability for the service include psychotic symptoms, chronic and severe mental health problems.

2.3
If there is evidence of a psychiatric problem which would indicate unsuitability for the service the assessor will discuss this possibility with the potential client and may request their permission, in writing, to make contact with an agency worker or physician if further exchange of information is seen to be helpful by the client.

2.4
The assessor needs to identify any specific client requirements in regard to areas such as disability, gender or ethnicity.

2.5
The assessor will discuss with clients the times of day or evening they prefer, possible venues and sessional fee levels, reaching a decision with them on the amount they will pay. This will be recorded on a contract form that includes general information and the confidentiality policy. They are asked to sign the form and receive a copy.

2.6
Copies of the assessment form and the agreement form are passed to the selected counsellor by the assessor, with names and contact details given separately.

2.7
This Procedure should be read in conjunction with the ASCA North East Confidentiality Policy.

ASCA NORTH EAST REVISED JAN 2015 

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CONFIDENTIALITY POLICY

Counselling Service policy: Confidentiality

The counsellors/Psychotherapists at ASCA Counselling ( North East ) are aware of their responsibility both to individuals who come for counselling and to the wider community. At times there can be tensions between the need to maintain an agreement of confidentiality with the individual client, and the counsellor's awareness of the needs of the wider community. This statement aims to define the response of the service ASCA Counselling ( North East ) to these tensions.

The counsellors are members of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, and adhere to its Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy. The Framework draws attention to issues of confidentiality in discussing two key ethical principles: ‘Fidelity’ and ‘Autonomy’.

‘Fidelity: honouring the trust placed in the practitioner
Being trustworthy is regarded as fundamental to understanding and resolving ethical issues. Practitioners who adopt this principle: act in accordance with the trust placed in them; regard confidentiality as an obligation arising from the client's trust; restrict any disclosure of confidential information about clients to furthering the purposes for which it was originally disclosed.’

‘Autonomy: respect for the client's right to be self-governing
This principle emphasises the importance of the client's commitment to participating in counselling or psychotherapy, usually on a voluntary basis. Practitioners who respect their clients' autonomy ... protect privacy; protect confidentiality; normally make any disclosures of confidential information conditional on the consent of the person concerned ...’
Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy BACP 2001/2002, p3

The counsellors do not normally divulge information about whether or not an individual has attended counselling, or what was discussed within a session, to any third party: fellow practitioner, doctor, or member of staff. Sometimes a counselling client requests that information is passed on (for example, if a 'medical certificate equivalent' is needed), or the counsellor feels that it might be helpful to communicate with another person, such as a doctor. In these circumstances, the counsellor would discuss with the client the nature and form of such a communication and obtain their explicit permission (usually by asking them to sign an Exchange of Confidential Information Form).

All the counsellors attend counselling supervision and team meetings in which cases are discussed, but the identity of clients is disguised. Counsellors may also discuss cases with the clinical supervisor concerned, or any supervisor that is available.

The counsellors keep records for statistical purposes, and individual notes, which are held securely. An individual who would like to see their notes can discuss this with their counsellor. Information about confidentiality, is also discussed in detail on your initial assessment form. The form states that registration with the service confirms the individuals acceptance of these record-keeping procedures.

The BACP Framework acknowledges that in some circumstances, particularly where a client may be at risk of serious self-harm, or harm to others, a counsellor may face a dilemma about whether or not to breach confidentiality:

‘Situations in which clients pose a risk of causing serious harm to themselves or others are particularly challenging for the practitioner. These are situations in which the practitioner should be alert to the possibility of conflicting responsibilities between those concerning their client, other people who may be significantly affected, and society generally. Resolving conflicting responsibilities may require due consideration of the context in which the service is being provided. Consultation with a supervisor or experienced practitioner is strongly recommended, whenever this would not cause undue delay.’

Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy BACP 2001/2002 p6

In reaching such a decision, a counsellor would attempt to assess the severity and immediacy of the risk involved, and to distinguish between, for example, violent intent and violent fantasy. As the Framework indicates, any decision to breach confidentiality would normally be discussed with a supervisor, or experienced colleague.

In deciding whether or not to breach confidentiality the counsellor will also consider where to pass on information, on a 'need to know' basis. In the case of a suicidal client, for example, this will usually be a doctor or other medical professional. If a client were posing a threat to the safety of others, it might be necessary to involve the police. The BACP Framework is clear that any breaking of confidentiality should be done in a careful and controlled way:

‘In all cases, the aim should be to ensure for the client a good quality of care that is as respectful of the client's capacity for self-determination and their trust as circumstances permit.’
Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy BACP 2001/2002 p6

There may be occasions where an individual is behaving in a way that others find disturbing, but unless the counsellor feels that their client is a risk to self or others, they will not pass on information about them. The

Counselling Service is aware that this can sometimes be a difficult situation for other individuals, and where possible ASCA Counselling ( North East ) will try to offer support to everyone involved in such a situation. Although counsellors will not discuss individual clients without their permission, the Service is happy to be consulted by staff who are concerned about an individual, or unsure about how to respond to a situation; such enquiries can often be made without naming the individual involved.

If a counsellor is concerned that a client's behaviour might be a potential risk to themselves or others, they would normally draw this to the client's attention and encourage them to take responsibility for their actions. Part of this might involve a decision by the client to inform others - In the majority of cases, it is usually possible to negotiate with the client, so that any breaking of confidentiality occurs with their consent. As stated above, only in exceptional situations would a counsellor decide to pass on information without permission from their client.

If a counsellor felt concerned that a client's behaviour could put others at risk they would normally share this with the client and encourage him/her to take responsibility for addressing the situation. If the client denied there was a problem or refused to take action, the counsellor would consider whether they felt the risk was sufficiently great to warrant breaching confidentiality.

The Counselling Service appreciates the extent to which other members of ASCA Counselling ( North East ) respect this policy on confidentiality, even if they can sometimes find it frustrating. ASCA Counselling
( North East ) hopes that this statement clarifies the thinking behind its approach, and the counsellors are happy to discuss particular issues relating to this. The counsellors believe that it is in the interests of the General community to have a Counselling Service that offers Individuals and staff a promise that confidentiality will be maintained in all but the exceptional circumstances discussed in this document.

ASCA Counselling ( North East )

JAN 2015 

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DATA PROTECTION - CLIENT’S

Counselling Services

Background
Counselling services are consequently in regular receipt of personal data. Many clients and the manner in which they process this data, from obtaining to disposal, should conform to the requirements of the Data Protection Act as well as any confidentiality policy the service has in place.

ASCA North East Counselling services will regularly deal with classes of data that the Data Protection Act defines as sensitive personal data, including data relating to the physical or mental health of a data subject. It should be noted that there are particular restrictions on the processing of such data.

Items of particular relevance from the 1998 Data Protection Act

Principle 1 Fair and lawful processing
Schedule 3 Conditions for the processing of sensitive data

Key Issues

1. ASCA North East should inform clients why personal data is processed. Explicit consent for the processing of sensitive data should be obtained, ideally written (see FAQ1). Acceptance by the client of the service’s record-keeping practices should be part of their contract with the Service.

2. Staff should be aware that clients will normally have a right of access to personal data including counselling service records. Counsellors should offer to discuss any personal data within the records that may be unclear with that client. (see also ‘Risk Registers’ below). Personal data provided by another individual who can be identified from that information (“third party information”) should be withheld until the consent of the third party has been obtained. If this is not possible, or consent is refused, information may still be disclosed if this is "reasonable in all the circumstances". Staff are advised to consult their Senior Supervisor for further guidance in such circumstances.

3. Clients should be informed of to whom and under what circumstances personal data might be disclosed. ASCA North East should take all reasonable steps to ensure that counsellors,respect the need for confidentiality regarding any information obtained.

In these circumstances such a disclosure would be permissible if it was viewed to be in the legitimate interests of the Client and the public at large.

However, if a client has attended ASCA North East they should be informed of any such possible disclosures to external agencies. < See ASCA North East - Contract >

Sensitive personal data of a client should only be disclosed in specific circumstances (Schedule 3):

i) where the counsellor has the explicit consent of the client to disclose the data;
ii) where the counsellor believes that the client or a 3rd party is in danger of serious harm.

NOTE- The consent of the client should not be sought where it is thought that informing the client of the disclosure would increase the level of risk to the client or 3rd party.

iii) ** where the disclosure is required ‘for the purpose of .... any legal proceedings’.

4. ASCA North East should ensure all records are kept securely and remain confidential within the Service. The level of security required for personal data should be commensurate with the sensitivity of the data and the risk of damage if data were disclosed. In the case of the Counselling Service security should include:

i) All manual files being kept in locked cabinets within a locked office.

ii) Access to computer database should be password protected and data anonymised with key held separately.

iii) A back-up of the computer database should be kept, preferably in a separate locked cabinet in a separate building (in case of disaster).

iv) Secure disposal of personal data that is no longer required. Manual data should be disposed of by shredding, computer hard drives should be ‘over-written’ by the Computer Services department (or equivalent) prior to disposal

5. Counselling Services may keep "risk registers" of various types, including:

  • names of individuals who a counsellor believes may be at special risk of self-harm, and who will require careful management if seen on a regular basis or if their counsellor has to cancel an appointment;

  • names of individuals who may be violent, so that counsellors can check before they arrange one- to-one meetings.

    Access by counsellors to such "risk registers" should be available only on a “need to know” basis.

    ** In the event of a subject access request a client should be informed about their inclusion on a "risk register" unless that it is believed that such a disclosure would put the health & safety of the data subject, or third party (including counsellors) at risk (Section 31(2)(e)).

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS - COUNSELLING SERVICES

1) A client may arrive in a state of distress/desperation and not be prepared to sign the Data Protection statement. A client may also be simply opposed to signing any document relating to their attendance at a counselling service.
Can counselling be given without explicit consent for counselling services to retain sensitive personal data?

The Act states that explicit consent must be obtained when processing sensitive data unless specific exemptions apply (Schedule 3). The Statutory Instrument 417 provides additional exemptions for processing of sensitive data without explicit consent, including for the provision of counselling, but ONLY where this is:

“in the substantial public interest”
The view of the OIC is that situations of “substantial public interest” will apply to scenarios such as those following national disasters (e.g. rail crash) not for ‘routine’ counselling.

In the above situations where a client is not prepared to give ‘written’ consent it would be sufficient for consent to be explicitly indicated by the counsellor recording that the client has been informed of all relevant information about the proposed processing.

Where the client does not want any processing of sensitive data to take place three main options are apparent:
i) Explain that the Service can’t be provided without consent as note taking is a fundamental part of the Service *.

ii) Offer the client one initial session and at the end of this explain why ASCA North East need consent. If consent is still refused no further sessions should be offered *. No contract should be drawn up with the client during the initial session. A record that the client has attended may be retained without explicit consent as this is not sensitive data.

iii) If the contract of ASCA North East allows, the client could be asked to sign a suitable disclaimer regarding liability for any advice given.

This is suggested to avoid a situation where the client subsequently sues the Counselling Service and no records are available for the Service to defend themselves against accusations. This option should not be carried out regularly and only after consultation with ‘senior counsellors’.

NB Instances such as (ii) and (iii) relate more to the ethics of the individual Counselling Service than Data Protection law as sensitive personal data is not being processed.

* The client should be immediately referred to other Counselling Services, e.g. Samaritans, that do not require personal data and therefore do not require explicit consent.

2) When is it best to:
i) obtain consent from the client and
ii) provide guidance regarding the data protection policies of the counselling service?

Suggested best practice is that the consent form is signed prior to the first counselling session. In exceptional circumstances (see above) signing of the consent form, or recording of consent by the counsellor, could be discussed at the end of the first session.

A copy of the consent form or a separate leaflet, detailing the Service’s data protection policies should be given to the client when explicit consent is requested. This can then be read either before signing, or after at the clients discretion. Where consent is to be recorded by the counsellor they must explicitly inform the client of the data protection guidelines. Guidelines should also be available separately including on the ASCA North East website.

3) Many counsellors currently keep notes on counselling sessions relating to their views on how the session has progressed, their perception of the client and his/her problems etc. Many regard these as essential to their work. They are used to help keep track of how sessions are developing and as a precise reminder of the relationship established with the client (often difficult with high workloads). Under what circumstances may personal ‘process’ notes be kept by counsellors?

Personal process notes are often highly subjective and open to different interpretations. It is our current view that a subject access request would include access to such notes* which:
i) many counsellors would object to as infringing their privacy
ii) would be more likely to result in litigation against the service

iii) if used on behalf of the client in court may not provide clear objective support for the client.

* Under Data Protection law a counsellor can’t claim confidentiality of personal notes as a right (though this case could be argued in court).

Practical suggestions to deal with this issue are either
i) that personal process notes should never be kept or
ii) If it is deemed essential to keep personal notes these should be: as objective as possible; not retained when any perceived possibility of litigation exists; and removed routinely following the final counselling session with the client (or annually).

4) ASCA North East are often asked to provide evidence of a client’s physical or mental problems for examination by a clients Solicitor acting on their behalf, or Police Officers investigations, or a Judge sitting in a recognised public Court.

When can Counselling Service release information to appeals / disciplinary committees?

Though the disclosure of such information might appear to be to the obvious benefit of the client this should never be done without the client’s explicit consent for each separate appeal or hearing. The only occasions upon which explicit consent is not required would be if exceptional circumstances apply. For example, if the counsellor believes that the client is in danger of serious harm if evidence is not supplied.


Suggested Data Protection Guidelines to be Provided to Counselling Service Clients

What information is held and Why?
ASCA North East, in order to carry out a professional effective service maintains a record of client attendance and counsellors keep notes after each session. General statistics are kept about numbers attending the Service and how often certain problems occur. These statistics do not contain information from which an individual can be identified and are solely used to monitor and improve the effectiveness of the Service.

Security

Records are retained securely for 5 years of the client’s last appointment) and then disposed of confidentially.

Access

Under the Data Protection Act (1998) you have a right of access to notes held in your file containing personal data. ** Please consult your counsellor, or ASCA North East.

Confidentiality
ASCA North East adheres to the strictest standards of confidentiality. Staff working for the Counselling Service will not pass on personal information about clients (including information on attendance) to anyone outside the Service subject to the following exceptions:

  1. (i)  Where the member of staff has the express consent of the client to disclose the information.

  2. (ii)  ** Where the disclosure is required for the purpose of any legal proceedings.

  3. (iii)  Where the member of staff believes the client or a third party is in serious danger.

In circumstances (ii) & (iii) the counsellor will seek to obtain consent to disclose information from the client, if at all possible. If there is no indication that this is likely to happen, and danger is sufficiently acute, the counsellor may pass on the information directly.

In line with their professional requirements counsellors may discuss counselling sessions with other counsellors or a supervisor external to the service. In these processes the identity of the client is not revealed.

If you have any queries or concerns about our data protection policy, please feel free to speak to your counsellor.

The Data Protection Act (1998) requires us to obtain your consent for this record keeping.

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DBS VETTING POLICY

DBS Policy Statement on the Recruitment of Ex-offenders:

This policy statement, provided by the DBS.

  • As an organisation using the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checking service to assess applicants’ suitability for positions of trust, ASCA North East complies fully with the Code of Practice and undertakes to treat all applicants for positions fairly. It undertakes not to discriminate unfairly against any subject of a DBS check on the basis of a conviction or other information revealed.

  • ASCA North East, can only ask an individual to provide details of convictions and cautions that ASCA North East are legally entitled to know about. Where a DBS certificate at either standard or enhanced level can legally be requested (where the position is one that is included in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 as amended) and where appropriate Police Act Regulations (as amended), ASCA North East can only ask an individual about convictions and cautions that are not protected.

  • ASCA North East is committed to the fair treatment of its staff, potential staff or users of its services, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, responsibilities for dependants, age, physical/mental disability or offending background.

  • ASCA North East has a written policy on the recruitment of ex-offenders, which is made available to all DBS applicants at the outset of the recruitment process.

  • ASCA North East actively promotes equality of opportunity for all with the right mix of talent, skills and potential and welcome applications from a wide range of candidates, including those with criminal records. ASCA North East select all candidates for interview based on their skills, qualifications and experience.

  • An application for a criminal record check is only submitted to DBS after a thorough risk assessment has indicated that one is both proportionate and relevant to the position concerned. For those positions where a criminal record check is identified as necessary, all application forms, job adverts and recruitment briefs will contain a statement that an application for a DBS certificate will be submitted in the event of the individual being offered the position.

  • ASCA North East ensures that all those in ASCA North East who are involved in the recruitment process have been suitably trained to identify and assess the relevance and circumstances of offences. ASCA North East also ensures that they have received appropriate guidance and training in the relevant

legislation relating to the employment of ex-offenders, e.g. the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

  • Unless the nature of the position allows ASCA North East to ask questions about your entire criminal record, except for certain spent convictions and cautions which are ‘protected’ so not subject to disclosure to employers and that cannot be taken into account, we only ask about ‘unspent’ convictions as defined in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

  • We ensure that all those in ASCA North East who are involved in the recruitment process have been suitably trained to identify and assess the relevance and circumstances of offences. We also ensure that they have received appropriate guidance and training in the relevant legislation relating to the employment of ex-offenders, e.g. the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

  • ASCA North East makes every subject of a criminal record check submitted to DBS aware of the existence of the Code of Practice and makes a copy available on request.

  • ASCA North East undertakes to discuss any matter revealed on a DBS certificate with the individual seeking the position before withdrawing a conditional offer of employment.

    Further information regarding conviction information

    On the 29 May 2013, legislation came into force that allows certain old and minor cautions and convictions to no longer be subject to disclosure. In addition, employers will no longer be able to take an individual’s old and minor cautions and convictions into account when making decisions. All cautions and convictions for specified serious violent and sexual offences, and other specified offences of relevance for posts concerned with safeguarding children and vulnerable adults, will remain subject to disclosure. In addition, all convictions resulting in a custodial sentence, whether or not suspended, will remain subject to disclosure, as will all convictions where an individual has more than one conviction recorded.

    ASCA NORTH EAST REVIEW JAN - 2016 

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    DISCIPLINARY POLICY AND PROCEDURE


    STATEMENT OF POLICY

  • The aim of the ASCA North East Disciplinary Policy is to help and encourage employees to improve, achieve and maintain standards of conduct, attendance and job performance. It also enables ASCA North East management to deal effectively with those employees who do not comply with the Business standards of conduct, attendance and performance in the workplace. Equally, the policy and procedure are designed in a manner which is non-discriminatory and which is fair, consistent and effective. It must also be applied in a timely manner and without undue delay.

  • ASCA North East Management have a responsibility for ensuring that sessional workers are made aware of the Disciplinary Policy and Procedure. All sessional workers are to be informed of the standards of conduct and work performance expected of them and Supervisors should ensure that these standards are fully understood by those who work to them. Action taken under this policy must reflect fully the process detailed in the Procedural Appendix attached to this policy.

  • Matters relating to or arising under the Disciplinary Policy and Procedure must be treated as confidential at all times. Failure to do so may itself constitute grounds for initiating disciplinary action.

    KEY PRINCIPLES

  • At each stage of the Disciplinary Procedure attached to this policy, the sessional worker has a right to be accompanied by an accredited Trade Union representative or work colleague. The employee will also be informed in writing of:-

    • The nature of the complaint or allegation against them; and

    • The stage at which the matter is being considered.
       

  • The sessional worker will also be reminded that they will be given a full opportunity to state their case and if action is taken, what improvement is required. They will also be reminded of their right of appeal.
     
  • Supervisors whose responsibilities require them to participate in or hold disciplinary meetings will be suitably qualified to enable them to undertake their role effectively and dispassionately.
     
  • Supervisors and sessional workers should make every effort to attend meetings or interviews relating to the application of the Disciplinary Procedure. If an individual is unable to attend, they will need to give notice and the reasons why they are unable to attend. The meeting will then be re-scheduled to a mutually convenient time. Unless the reasons are exceptional, the re-arranged meeting must take place within 10 working days. However, where an employee fails to attend such meetings more than once without compelling reasons, then meetings may be held in the sessional workers absence. Where this measure is invoked, the sessional worker will be informed of this in writing. 
  • Those responsible for making arrangements under the Disciplinary Policy and Procedure must ensure that any necessary, reasonable adjustments required by ASCA North East or other attending have been addressed. This may relate to disability or to the requirements of religious beliefs.

  • Should a sessional worker have an objection to the person or persons appointed to investigate or hold meetings in connection with the disciplinary matter they must raise this objection in writing, clearly stating the reasons to ASCA North East Management Such objection must be made within two working days of the notification about the matter under investigation being brought to their attention.

  • The nature of the disciplinary action taken will be determined according to the nature and seriousness of the alleged misconduct and a dispassionate assessment of the facts based on the balance of probabilities. Where misconduct is established and the sanction is a warning then subsequent misconduct within the currency of the warning may result in further and potentially more serious action which may ultimately result in dismissal. However, no sessional worker will be dismissed for a first instance of misconduct but summary dismissal may occur where gross misconduct is established. Sessional workers have a right of appeal against any disciplinary warning or sanction.

  • The Business ASCA North East Disciplinary Policy and Procedure will not apply to any sessional worker who is in their period of probation. Also, any proposed application of this policy to accredited Trade Union representatives must be the subject of prior consultation with ASCA North East senior management who will notify a senior full-time official of the Trade Union concerned.

  • Should a sessional worker raise a complaint under ASCA North East’s Grievance Policy, or any other related policy, whilst the subject of action under the Disciplinary Policy and Procedure and the complaint relates directly or indirectly to the matter under investigation, then action under the Disciplinary Policy will be adjourned whilst an urgent enquiry into the complaint is carried out. If the grievance or complaint is rejected or found to have no bearing on the matter being investigated under the Disciplinary Policy, then the disciplinary proceedings will continue from the point at which they were adjourned.

  • Data relating to the application of this Policy and Procedure will be held and destroyed in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 and any Company policy which derives from that Act.

  • In accordance with ASCA North East Equality Policy, this procedure will not discriminate, either directly or indirectly, on the grounds of gender, race, colour, ethnic or national origin, sexual orientation, marital status, religion or belief, age, trade union membership, disability, offending background or any other personal characteristics.

  • This policy and procedure will be reviewed periodically giving due consideration to any legislative changes. 
     

    APPENDIX

    DISCIPLINARY PROCEDURE

    1. The purpose of the Disciplinary Procedure is the achievement of positive improvements by sessional workers where shortcomings or failures are identified. Any failure to attain required standards will be brought to the attention of the sessional worker concerned at the earliest opportunity wherever possible via the informal procedure detailed below. The attention of Supervisors is, however, drawn to Paragraph 10 of the Key Principles where the employee whose performance or conduct has given rise to concern is an accredited Trade Union representative or is a sessional worker still within their probationary period.

    Informal Procedure

  • This procedure should be used where the lapse in performance or conduct can reasonably be said to be minor and an isolated instance. Such matters should be addressed promptly by supervisors by way of an informal advisory discussion. The objective will be to ensure the employee recognises and accepts their shortcomings, offer encouragement and help to improve and secure a commitment to do so. A note of the discussion should be made for reference purposes and there should be no recourse to the formal procedure.

  • Examples where the Informal Procedure may be appropriate include, infrequent lateness, carelessness, lack of effort, minor insensitive behaviour toward colleagues. The use of the Informal Procedure is simply an aspect of normal day to day management.The Supervisor should make it clear that if the required improvement does not take place, consideration will necessarily be given to the use of the Formal Procedure.

4. The Formal Procedure will be applied where a sessional worker does not respond appropriately or adequately to informal action or the Supervisor considers that the breach of conduct that is believed to have occurred is too serious to be dealt with informally. Examples of behaviour that may constitute misconduct resulting in disciplinary action are set out at Annex A to this Appendix, as are examples of behaviour which may constitute gross misconduct. In using the Formal Procedure and determining whether the sessional worker has committed ‘misconduct’ or ‘gross misconduct’, the burden of proof required on a dispassionate and objective assessment of the facts is the balance of probability. 

Formal Procedure
The Formal Procedure will be applied where a sessional worker does not respond appropriately or adequately to informal action or the Supervisor considers that the breach of conduct that is believed to have occurred is too serious to be dealt with informally. Examples of behaviour that may constitute misconduct resulting in disciplinary action are set out at Annex A to this Appendix, as are examples of behaviour which may constitute gross misconduct. In using the Formal Procedure and determining whether the sessional worker has committed ‘misconduct’ or ‘gross misconduct’, the burden of proof required on a dispassionate and objective assessment of the facts is the balance of probability. 

Investigation

  • Before disciplinary proceedings can take place, a wholly impartial investigation must be undertaken to collect information relating to the allegations and to determine whether the case should proceed to a disciplinary meeting.
  • The Investigating Supervisor must meet the following criteria:-
    • Be wholly independent and have no connection whatsoever to the matter under investigation;
    • Have experience in conducting investigations or have received training in conducting investigations.
    • Be able to undertake the investigation promptly and unless there is particular complexity or non-availability of key interviewees, complete enquiries and provide a report within 15 working days, indicating what action, if any, should be considered.
    • Upon receipt of the Investigating Supervisor’s report, the relevant ASCA North East Management must decide what action, if any, should be taken. Three courses of action are available:-
    • There is no case to answer. In such circumstances, the sessional worker concerned must be told immediately should that be the case;
    • That the matter can be resolved through guidance, counselling or further training;
    • That there is a case to answer and that a disciplinary meeting requires to be convened.

The Disciplinary Meeting (See also Annex B).

  • Before the disciplinary meeting the sessional worker will be advised in writing of the purpose of the meeting and details of the complaint or allegation being considered, covering all issues to be discussed. The individual will be given a minimum of 5 working days notice of the disciplinary meeting. If the individual’s representative or work colleague is not available to attend on the date proposed, ASCA North East Management will endeavour to offer an alternative reasonable date within 5 working days of the original date. Note: This meeting will normally only be re-arranged once, except in exceptional circumstances.

  • Should either party wish to call any witnesses to the disciplinary meeting they must give at least 3 working days’ notice to the Disciplinary Panel, and have full responsibility for arranging the attendance of these witnesses.

  • All relevant facts and evidence will be made available to the sessional worker at least 5 working days prior to the disciplinary meeting. Additional information gathered by the sessional worker that they wish to present at the meeting, must also be made available to the disciplinary panel at least 1 working day prior to the meeting. Either party may present evidence including details of previous relevant warnings, witness statements, call witnesses and have the opportunity to ask questions. An adjournment must be held in order that there can be a period of dispassionate reflection by the Disciplinary Panel to consider what action, if any, is to be taken. Where possible, both parties will be verbally informed of the outcome after the adjournment.

  • The sessional worker will be advised in writing of the outcome of the disciplinary meeting within 7 working days unless a longer period is specified and can be justified. If disciplinary action is taken, the sessional worker will be informed of the required improvements which are necessary and if applicable details of timescales for achievement, the duration of the warning and the consequence of a failure to improve performance as required. The letter must include the date of the disciplinary meeting, the reason for issuing the warning as well as details of any sanctions which may be imposed. It should also be noted whether the sessional worker invoked their right to be accompanied. The right of appeal will also be included. 

Warnings and Penalties

11. The outcome of the disciplinary meeting will generally fall into one of the following categories:-

  • Case dismissal
  • No action required
  • The employee is required to attend counselling or retraining
  • Verbal warning
  • First written warning
  • Final written warning
  • Dismissal

12. The above sanctions may be applied as follows:-

  1. Verbal Warning: In cases of an initial or minor issue, the verbal warning is appropriate.

  2. First Written Warning: If the issue is more serious or if there is a still an active Verbal Warning in place and insufficient improvement has been made or further misconduct occurs, a First Written Warning will normally be issued. A first written warning will normally be valid for 6 months from the date of the disciplinary meeting.

  3. Final Written Warning: If the issue is even more serious or if there is a still an active First Written Warning in place and insufficient improvement has been made or further misconduct occurs, a Final Written Warning will normally be issued. A final written warning will normally be valid for 12 months from the date of the disciplinary meeting. In exceptional cases validity may be longer.

  4. Dismissal with Notice: If within 12 months of the issue of a Final Written Warning further misconduct occurs or insufficient improvement has been made, the sessional worker will normally be dismissed without notice.The sessional worker will be provided with written reasons for dismissal, the date on which the sessional work will terminate, their entitlement to any outstanding payments, and the right of appeal.

  5. Summary Dismissal: Where behaviour or misconduct is sufficiently serious to constitute gross misconduct, the sessional worker will normally be summarily dismissed - i.e. without notice. In exceptional cases an alternative sanction will be

Final written warning Dismissal

applied.The sessional worker will be provided with written reasons for dismissal, the date on which the employment will terminate and the right of appeal.

Expiry of Warnings

13. A record of any disciplinary sanction will be placed on the sessional worker’s personal file. A sanction will be considered to be spent and the record removed from the file provided that the sessional worker’s conduct has been considered to be satisfactory throughout the period following the imposition of the sanction.

Authority to Dismiss

  1. The decision to dismiss a sessional worker may only be taken by a person designated by ASCA North East Management to have such authority or the instruction of a person so designated. No dismissal may take place without consultation with and the involvement of ASCA North East Management.

  2. In cases where the system of written warnings has been followed and exhausted, but it is alleged that the sessional worker’s conduct has failed to improve, a further disciplinary meeting must be convened if it is the intention to consider dismissal.

  3. Where dismissal occurs, whether with notice or summary, following the establishment of gross misconduct, the sessional worker and their representative will be provided with a letter setting out ASCA North East’s decision. The letter, which must be sent to the sessional worker by recorded delivery, must give details of those present at the disciplinary meeting, excluding witnesses, details of the allegation(s) and the evidence presented, the terms of the decision to dismiss and the reasons and the date on which the sessional self employment will terminate.

  4. In all cases, the right of appeal will be specified.

Appeals

  1. Any sessional worker who receives a disciplinary warning, other sanction or notice of dismissal has the right of appeal. Appeals must be lodged in writing with ASCA North East Management (contact point will be specified in the letter of notification) within 10 working days of the date of the written notice of the sanction. This period may be extended only in exceptional circumstances. The notice of appeal must state the grounds of the appeal.

  2. Appeals will be heard within 15 working days of the receipt of the notice of appeal by a more senior supervisor than the person taking the action at first instance. All appeal panels will include a senior supervisor / representative of ASCA North East. Both parties to the appeal must provide a full written statement of the case including the grounds upon which the appeal is made/resisted together with copies of any documents to which reference will be made. All documents and the details of witnesses, if any must be notified to all parties, 5 working days before the hearing takes place.The Appeal Hearing will follow the procedure set out in Annex C to this Appendix.

  3. The decision of the Appeal Hearing is final.

Criminal Offences

  1. Disciplinary action should not be taken automatically against an sessional worker because he/she has been arrested, charged or convicted of a criminal offence, as the matters may not be work-related and may have no relevance or impact within the workplace.Each case must be carefully considered by ASCA North East Management according to the particular circumstances.

  2. Disciplinary action may be considered in circumstances where, for example, the sessional worker has been convicted and the nature of the conviction or sentence or both:-

    Impairs the business or reputation of ASCA North East and/or;
    Makes the individual unsuitable for continued sessional work given the nature

    of the business of ASCA North EAST or the sessional worker’s role;
    Would be unacceptable to ASCA North East Management or other sessional worker’s.

    Should disciplinary action be progressed, the normal investigative policy and procedure of investigation is to be followed to address the issue, as described in the Policy and Procedure.

  3. Where a sessional worker is unable to attend work because they are under arrest or remanded in custody, disciplinary action should not be commenced as the employee may ultimately be innocent.The position should be addressed by consideration of special circumstances by ASCA North East Management until the position is clarified.

Suspension

  1. Suspension is not in itself regarded as a disciplinary action and does not involve any prejudgement, or imply that any misconduct has taken place. It is a neutral act to enable an investigation of the allegations made. A short period of suspension may be helpful or necessary, although it should only be imposed after careful consideration. It should also be kept under review and brought to an end as quickly as possible allowing for full investigation.

  2. In cases of alleged gross misconduct or when other circumstances dictate that it is inappropriate for the sessional worker to remain at the normal place of work, the relevant supervisor or ASCA North East Management will consider whether suspension is appropriate in the circumstances. Where it is found there is a case to answer, a formal disciplinary meeting will be convened. Examples of circumstances that may warrant suspension include, fighting or violence between colleagues, alleged criminal offences or sensitive situations, e.g. alleged sexual assault.

  3. A sessional worker suspended from duty will be given written confirmation of the suspension and the reason for this action. Whilst on suspension, a sessional worker must remain contactable and must be available to attend for any investigation/ disciplinary meeting during normal working hours, unless mutually agreed otherwise. A sessional worker who is suspended from duty shall, throughout the period of suspension, be paid for all sessional work completed.

  4. Whilst a sessional worker is on suspension, they should not attempt to contact colleagues connected to the case with the exception of their Trade Union representative, work colleague (who is to accompany them at any subsequent meeting, if proven that there is a case to answer) or their delegated Supervisor. 

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COMPLAINTS POLICY

Internal complaints-handling procedures
The purpose of this ASCA North East Policy is to assist Client’s & Counsellors to implement internal complaints-handling procedures.
This document has no regulatory status. It is issued for guidance purposes only.

INTRODUCTION
Client’s & Counsellors in the UK must implement adequate procedures to handle client complaints in respect of fee, service and contractual disputes.

THE UNDERLYING PRINCIPLES
As in any organisation which is people-based, occasional genuine errors or delays will inevitably occur. The principles and procedures set out in this Policy are concerned with learning from your experiences, and ensuring fair dealing with those with whom ASCA North East Staff come into contact. In respect of all complaints about ASCA North East, the staff should:

  • focus on putting matters right where possible.

  • ensure that their Counsellor/Supervisor is aware of the matter at the earliest possible stage.

  • Discuss with their Counsellor/Supervisor what lessons might be drawn from the situation in order to avoid any future repetition of the problem or issue.

  • after discussion with your Counsellor/Supervisor around the issue an apology to the affected party if appropriate in the situation.

    In most cases, the client (or other party making the complaint)
    will be content that matters have been put right and an apology given. However, there will be occasions where clients (or others) will feel sufficiently strongly about an issue that they will want to take matters further. In such cases, it is important that ASCA North East does not, in any way, impede such further investigations ASCA North East’s procedures should always allow for clients to take the matter further.

    OVERARCHING AIMS
    The overarching aims of the procedures, which are set out in the Code of Ethics and Practice, should ensure:

  • the proper handling of complaints from clients/Counsellors.

  • That complaints are acknowledged within a reasonable time of their being received.

  • where a complaint has been made orally, that the letter of acknowledgement states the Client’s/Counsellors understanding as to the nature of the complaint being made, and invites the complainant to confirm in writing the accuracy of that statement.

    • that complaints are investigated by a person of sufficient experience, seniority and competence who was not directly involved in the particular act or omission giving rise to the complaint

• that any appropriate remedial action on those complaints is promptly taken.

• where a complaint is not promptly remedied, that the Client/Counsellor is advised of any further avenue for complaint available to him or her (eg taking the matter up with <BACP>


THE PROCEDURES
Many complaints can be resolved satisfactorily by following the procedures set out below. In this way, the level of ‘Client/Counsellor care’ is improved and issues of ‘poor service’ may be resolved without the need for matters to be taken further.
The purpose of this process is to focus on the issues that gave rise to the complaint. Further, it is taken as read that ASCA North East will, at all times, be professional and courteous in their dealings with Clients/Counsellors and others.
To assist Client’s/Counsellors to log complaints, an example of a complaint notification form is reproduced in the appendix to this policy.
The procedures to be followed include:

  • completion of the complaint notification form.

  • acknowledgement of the complaint within, 7 working days of receipt (Although a longer period may be acceptable, a prompt acknowledgement reassures the Client/Counsellor that the complaint is being given the appropriate level of attention.)

    • where the complaint was received by telephone, making
    a telephone attendance note and sending a letter of acknowledgement outlining your understanding as to the nature of the complaint being made, and inviting the complainant to confirm in writing the accuracy of the letter.

  • taking any appropriate remedial action.

  • where the complaint cannot be promptly remedied, advising the complainant of this and setting out the proposed time frame for dealing with it.

  • if the complainant is not satisfied, advising that he or she may take the matter up with BACP (or other regulator if appropriate) It is important to avoid any charge that the matter is being covered up.

    • filing the completed complaint notification form and related correspondence.

    For ASCA North East additional procedures may be necessary and include:

  • bringing the matter to the attention of the Appropriate Supervisor at the earliest possible opportunity, and supplying him or her with the complaints notification form.

  • The Supervisor discussing with a Client/Counsellor the proposed course of action, and

    the complaint, in the first instance, being dealt with by the Supervisor in conjunction with ASCA North East Management.
    • where the complaint is against a Supervisor it should be investigated by ASCA North East Management. In the event of a complaint against ASCA North East Management, it should be investigated by an Independent Senior Supervisor with sufficient experience, seniority and competence who, where possible, was not directly involved in the particular act or omission giving rise to the complaint.

• when filing the completed complaint notification form and related correspondence, passing a copy of the completed complaints notification form to the Relevant Supervisor & ASCA North East Management

INFORMING CLIENTS

A convenient place to make clients aware of ASCA North East’s Complaint Policy is ASCA Website - www.ascanortheast.co.uk

We aim to provide a high quality of service at all times. If you would like to discuss with us how our service could be improved or if you are dissatisfied with the service that you are receiving please let us know by contacting shaun.mccowie@ascanortheast.co.uk

ASCA North East undertake to look into any complaint carefully and promptly and to do all we can to explain the position to you. If we do not answer your complaint to your satisfaction you may take up the matter with the BACP British Association Of Counselling & Psychotherapy

APPENDIX

Complaint notification form:

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL:
Circulation of this form should be restricted to:
• ASCA North East Personnel - BACP - or Appointed Legal Representatives.
• personnel directly involved in the complaint.
• legal advisers, professional indemnity insurance providers, ASCA North East.

Date of complaint

• Letter (attach copy)
• Telephone call (attach file note) • In person (attach meeting note) • Email (attach copy) • Fax (attach copy)
Person against whom complain was made
Counsellor/Supervisor/Management
Engagement partner
Complainant
Partner managing complaint
Brief description of complaint
Date of letter acknowledging complaint
Date matter resolved
Details of how it was resolved
Proposed courses of action
Date of letter to client summarising outcome
Date discussed with person against whom complaint was made
Date discussed with Supervisor/ASCA North East Management/engagement partner Signed by: (person against whom complaint was made) (Supervisor/Counsellor/ASCA North East Management, managing complaint)

Issued: January 2015. 

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ASCA NORTH EAST - NOTES KEEPING POLICY

Notes and Record Keeping

Part of our confidentiality policy is the way we keep notes and records. Again our policy is to be open and transparent with you so that you have all the information you need about the Service. To this end, it may be useful to know what information we keep, where it is kept and for how long.

The Counselling and Supervisory Services keep minimal notes and records. However, it is often in a client’s interest that we have a record of the process in case it is needed later and also so that counsellors can be accountable for their work. To this end, we keep several types of information:

1.Contact information: Your name, address, your date of birth, a contact Number and your GP’s name and address.

2. Background information: Such as whether you are sick, if you are on medication, who referred you and any other details which may be relevant
to the counselling process.

3. Your signed contract with us.

4. Case notes: These are details of the main focus of the session and any important information, which needs to be recorded such as referrals or any additional support that was suggested, any information that demonstrates good practice in our work with you and any other relevant information. This information will be held confidentially within the Counselling Service, separate from any details that could identity you.

5. Process notes: Some counsellors keep their own notes about their work in the counselling sessions. This is intended to help them to hold onto important issues between sessions and to identify areas they want to look at in supervision. These notes are hand written and are shredded at the end of your sessions so they are not stored.

6. Information needed for Statistical Purposes: Non-identifiable statistics are gathered annually to provide details of any general trends or patterns to inform our practice and influence the provision within the practice.

All confidential material is kept in a secure office in locked filing cabinets. No one can accidentally access the information and it is available only to the counselling team. If information is carried from one location to another, this will be in a locked briefcase. Client records are kept for seven years.

Access to Information
If you have any concerns about our policy on confidentiality and note keeping, please feel welcome to discuss it fully with your counsellor. If you wish to see the information held on you, please put your request in writing to your counsellor.
If you require any further information, please E:Mail us at info@ascanortheast.co.uk
Or Contact us on Tel:0191 2092887

ASCA REVIEW JAN 2016 

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ASCA SUPERVISION POLICY

CONTINUING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT ( CPD )

All current and Practicing Counsellors/Psychotherapists working sessionally or employed by ASCA COUNSELLING ( NORTH EAST ) should be giving very strong and continuing attention to their professional development, and take part in on-going activities that will enhance, encourage and support further knowledge, progression and expertise. CPD will include activities such as, training courses, personal therapy, attendance at group-work sessions, and occasional attendance at relevant training conferences.

PROFESSIONAL CLINICAL SUPERVISION FOR ASCA COUNSELLING ( NORTH EAST ) COUNSELLORS/PSYCHOTHERAPISTS

All current and practising Counsellors/Psychotherapists working sessionally on behalf, ASCA COUNSELLING
( NORTH EAST ) are absolutely required to regularly take part in supervision with a suitably trained clinical supervisor ( In House ). or where ASCA North East does not engage the services of a particular type of specialist supervisor, it is the sessional workers responsibility to be regularly supervised,and to provide ASCA North East with monthly supervision evidence - to be supplied by that individuals supervisor directly.

This entails the Supervisee and the Supervisor meeting up at a pre-determined location and time, this may be carried out on a one to one basis, or carried out in group supervision, usually once a month depending on Counsellor/ Psychotherapist workload.

They meet to discuss and closely look at the Counsellors/Psychologists interactions with their client's and any matters that may have arisen during their on-going sessional work.

A whole range of topics may be discussed in relation to the supervisees client work, however everything that is discussed in supervision is treated as completely confidential and the anonymity of clients is strictly preserved. Regular supervision is absolutely essential and ensures that only the very highest standards of ethical practice are fully maintained by Counsellors/Psychologists for and on behalf of, ASCA COUNSELLING ( NORTH EAST ).

ASCA COUNSELLING ( NORTH EAST ) JAN 2015 

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ASCA EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES POLICY

POLICY STATEMENT

1. ASCA North East recognises that discrimination and victimisation is unacceptable and that it is in the interests of ASCA North East and its members of staff and client’s, to utilise the skills of the total staff complement. It is the aim of ASCA North East to ensure that no member of staff or client’s receives less favourable facilities or treatment (either directly or indirectly) in recruitment or receiving counselling services on grounds of age, disability, gender/gender reassignment, marriage/civil partnership, pregnancy/maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation (the protected characteristics). This policy accords with the legislation of The Equality Act 2010.

2. As an organisational member of BACP, adheres to the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy. Variations in client needs, and the diversity of settings within which counselling takes place is carefully considered. We recognise that clients vary in their requirements in order to communicate effectively and to gain access to the service. ASCA North East is an ethically aware service and strives to meet these needs to avoid excluding someone from accessing this service or lowering the quality of that service.

3. Our aim is that our team of staff will be truly representative of all sections of society and that each member of staff feels respected and able to give of their best.
4. We oppose all forms of unlawful and unfair discrimination or victimisation. To that end the purpose of this policy is to provide equality and fairness for all who use this service, whether member of staff or member of the public.

5. All members of staff, will be treated fairly and with respect. Selection procedures for job applications, training or any other benefit will be on the basis of aptitude and ability. All members of staff will be helped and encouraged to develop their full potential and the talents and resources of the workforce will be fully utilised to maximise the efficiency of ASCA North East. 6. Our staff will not discriminate directly or indirectly, or harass colleagues, visitors, or clients because of age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation in the provision of ASCA North East’s services.

OUR COMMITMENT

- To create an environment in which individual differences and the contributions of all our staff are recognised and valued.
- Every member of staff is entitled to a working environment that promotes dignity and respect to all. No form of intimidation, bullying or harassment will be tolerated.
- Training, development and progression opportunities are available to all staff.

- To promote equality in the workplace which we believe is good management practice.
- We will review all our policies, practices, and procedures to ensure fairness.
- Breaches of our Equality policy will be regarded as misconduct and could lead to disciplinary proceedings.

RESPONSIBILITES OF MANAGEMENT

Responsibility for ensuring the effective implementation and operation of the arrangements will rest with the ASCA North East Management. All personnel will ensure that they operate within this policy, and that all reasonable and practical steps are taken to avoid discrimination. ASCA North East will ensure that:

- All those for whom they are responsible are aware of the policy, and the reasons for the policy;
- grievances concerning discrimination are dealt with properly, fairly and as quickly as possible;
- proper records are maintained.
ASCA North East Management will be responsible for monitoring the operation of the policy in respect of members of staff and future job applicants.

RESPONSIBILITIES OF STAFF

Responsibility for ensuring that there is no unlawful discrimination rests with all staff and the attitudes of staff are crucial to the successful operation of fair working practices. In particular, all members of staff should:
- comply with the policy;

- not discriminate in their day to day activities or induce others to do so;
- not victimise, harass or intimidate other members of staff, colleagues, visitors, or clients who have, or are perceived to have, one of the protected characteristics.
- ensure no individual is discriminated against or harassed because of their association with another individual who has a protected characteristic.
- inform ASCA North East Management if they become aware of any discriminatory practice.

THIRD PARTIES

Third-party harassment occurs where a ASCA North East member of staff is harassed, and the harassment is related to a protected characteristic, by third parties such as clients or other service users. ASCA North East will not tolerate such actions against its staff, and the member of staff concerned should inform ASCA North East Management/supervisor at once that this has occurred. ASCA North East Management will fully investigate and take all reasonable steps to ensure such harassment does not happen again.

RIGHTS OF DISABLED PEOPLE

ASCA North East attaches particular importance to the needs of disabled people.
Under the terms of this policy, we are required to:
- make reasonable adjustment to maintain the services of an member of staff who becomes disabled, for example, training, provision of special equipment, reduced working hours.

- include disabled people in training/development programmes;
- give full and proper consideration to disabled people who apply for jobs, having regard to making reasonable adjustments for their particular aptitudes and abilities to allow them to be able to do the job.

GRIEVANCES/DISCIPLINE

Members of staff have a right to pursue a complaint concerning discrimination or victimisation via ASCA North East’s Grievance Procedures.
Discrimination and victimisation will be treated as disciplinary offences and they will be dealt with under the ASA North East’s Disciplinary Procedure.

REVIEW

The effectiveness of this policy will be reviewed annually under the direct supervision of ASCA North East Management.

Reviewed: January 2015