COVID19 Information

NZCCA Vaccination Statement 2 - issued 4 November 2021

Kia ora koutou, NZCCA members, affiliates and student affiliates,

 

Heavenly Father, may our awareness once again find you, meeting us in the mire,

holding us in the palm of your hand, and with boundless mercy reminding us that our feet rest on the Rock.

 

As this prayer encourages us, the invitation to re-locate and live out of our grounding in Christ is both continuous and recurring. This is a process which we believe God calls us as Christians to become well practiced at, leading in grace throughout our collective journey with COVID-19.

Over the past two weeks we have seen several new announcements from our government regarding vaccines and the COVID-19 response plan. Throughout this statement we endeavour to direct you to information which will help you to navigate your work as NZCCA members. Please be aware that we, the NZCCA executive, do not speak as an authority on the interpretation of this information and we encourage you to refer directly to government sources, particularly as ongoing developments come to light and may alter current understandings.  If you face any issues regarding subjects discussed in this statement, we encourage you to raise them with your (external) supervisor and/or employer in the first instance.

Mandated Vaccinations

The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021 (herein referred to as the Order) mandates vaccinations for workers, including counsellors, within early learning settings, primary or secondary schools, prisons, and border-related settings (see Schedule 2 of the Order and the Ministry Of Health’s (MOH) related webpage for details).

The Order also extends to certain work within the health and disability sectors (again, see Schedule 2 of the Order), and this has been clarified by the MOH’s related webpage as applying to:

  • Workers in professions regulated by the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 (HPCA). Counselling as a profession is not regulated by this act.
  • Workers who share workplaces with people in those professions and meet some other requirements (see Schedule 2 of the Order)
  • Workers who work in a facility that is certified by HealthCERT  (“hospitals, rest homes, residential care facilities, fertility facilities”
  • Care and support workers - specifically within homes/places of residence, funded by the Ministry of Health, a DHB, or ACC, and possibly including counselling (please see the definition given in the Order for details)

All workers within the scope of the order are required to receive their first dose of the vaccine by 15th November 2021 and to be fully vaccinated (two doses) by 1st January 2022.

The MOH has published a document titled Health and Disability Worker Vaccinations Order: Guidance document for PCBUs and workers (PCBU: "a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking," a link to the document is available halfway down on this MOH webpage), which clarifies that exceptions and exemptions will be “very few” and require assessment by “a suitably qualified health practitioner,” referring to GPs as an example. This document also provides guidance and further links regarding what happens if a worker who is mandated under the Order has not received vaccination by the required date (see p.14).

As far as this information is understood by NZCCA, not all NZCCA members are directly implicated by the Order. This means that those who do not fall into any of the categories given above are not necessarily required to be vaccinated in order to work, but will need to carry out a risk assessment based on their role in order to ascertain whether they require vaccination. 

Risk Assessments for Non-mandated Workers

As announced in the 26th October media conference, the government “will introduce a risk assessment process in law for employers to follow when deciding whether they can require vaccination for different types of work.” This announcement explains that the risk assessment will be based on guidance provided by WorkSafe, and “won’t override risk assessments that businesses have already done under the existing health and safety guidelines.”

WorkSafe has published a webpage giving guidance regarding risk assessments, which we encourage all members to consider in lieu of the process announced above. An example of how risk might be effectively reduced could include moving to counselling via video-call or employing other tele-counselling practices.

Supporting Clients

The NZCCA Code of Ethics and Practice requires members to, within the law, “hold the interests and wellbeing of their clients to be of primary importance,” and states that “The wellbeing of clients takes precedence over the self-interest of counsellors and over the interests of colleagues, employers and other agencies” (1.1). This reaffirms the great value in continually returning to, and operating out of, a grounding in the peace and assurance of Christ, particularly when meeting clients who experience anxiety or concern regarding COVID-19 and/or vaccinations.

Clients may at times, consciously or otherwise, seek for their counsellor to provide resolution to their distress by providing definitive answers rather than supporting them to grow in their capacity to navigate the issue themselves. However, we discourage members from stepping into the role of an authority regarding vaccinations and the government’s COVID-19 response plan, as this is likely to distract from therapeutic work.

It is our understanding that counsellors do not qualify to assess clients’ suitability for exemptions from mandatory vaccination. However, in cases where a client requires support advocating for themselves, it may be appropriate to provide a letter of support (or similar) which they can share with their General Practitioner (or other “suitably qualified health practitioner”).

It is important to note that under the Privacy Act 2020 (see Principle 1 here), clients cannot be required to disclose their vaccination status unless that information is specifically necessary for your work.

We hope that this information will be helpful to you as you lead in the humility of grace and lovingly serve those given to you to support.

Finally, to you and each of your whānau:

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14, NIV)

 

In Christ,

NZCCA Executive Committee.

 

Further links:

 

Vaccination Statement 1 - issued 21 October 2021

Kia ora koutou, NZCCA members, affiliates and student affiliates,

As you will be aware, the government made an announcement last week requiring early learning services, primary and secondary schools to maintain vaccination registers, ensuring only vaccinated workers have contact with children and students from 1 January 2022. Further to this, the announcement also required workers in certain roles within the health and disability sector to have received full vaccination by 1 December 2021, and those working in prison settings required to receive their first dose by the 30th of October.

As with many other turns in our global journey concerning COVID-19, this is yet another change which can bring uncertainty. We acknowledge that many may be experiencing concern and anxiety in the wake of this announcement, including people from a diversity of viewpoints, both personally and, in a more general sense, from those around us.

The present situation invites and challenges us to yet again centre ourselves in Christ and to intentionally deepen our roots in Him, returning again to our core values to help us navigate the complexities of life and practice. These times, while difficult, remind us our identity is in Christ first and above anything else. We have an opportunity to look to and deepen our faith; to increase our resiliency as we remember the Rock of Ages upon which we depend.

NZCCA is seeking further information to obtain definitive clarity regarding whether all counsellors will be required under this legislation to receive vaccinations in order to practice. It is clear from the information already provided, however, that some counsellors will fall within the scope of the mandate because of their close connection with border facilities, education settings, health services or prisons (please refer to covid19.govt.nz for details).

We will continue to monitor this situation and will provide another statement on Thursday 4th of November or as any further information is received. In the meantime, we encourage you all to stand firm in the love and assurance of Christ in all of your dealings through this time. The situation in which we find ourselves may be challenging, but more powerful still is our unity under Christ. Let us call upon our Creator to bind us together in love and to give us a clear vision to see His image in each of us. Let us continue serving as counsellors strengthened by our faith, upholding one another in prayer and grace.

We leave you with these verses and encourage you to allow them to go deep into your spirit:

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15 ESV)

 

In Christ,

New Zealand Christian Counsellors Association Executive Committee.

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