Directors report

2015-16

 

The Barristers Benevolent Fund provides support for barristers through BarCare. The service is strictly confidential and provides counselling for barristers and their families. BarCare services are totally separate from the Bar Association. Any information provided to BarCare is not given to the Bar Association without the barristers express permission. BarCare offers the services of psychologists, psychiatrists, general practitioners and financial advisors. The first consultation with any member of the BarCare Panel of Specialist is covered by the fund and additional sessions can be paid on a needs basis. BarCare can provide funds via a grant or a loan in crisis situations. A submission for financial assistance is prepared and considered by the Executive. BarCare has had busy year with a record number of calls. Issues involving stress/ anxiety and depression represent the largest proportion of calls. This reflects the level of personal demands placed individual barristers in daily practice. Again there have been a large number of self-referrals suggesting that barristers are aware of the pressure they are under and are seeking professional help early. Chambers or individual Barristers call BarCare to discuss concerns that they may be having regarding a colleague. They may be seeking guidance on the best manner to approach the colleague. Another option is for BarCare to call the barrister and indicate that colleagues are concerned about their wellbeing. In these circumstances the name of the referring person or persons is not disclosed. The responses received to these cold calls are varied. Most are surprised and grateful that colleagues are concerned about their welfare. Others indicate that they are currently seeking treatment and need no additional assistance. While a few are perplexed and unsure why there is concern and reject any offer of assistance. No further follow up is made with this last group. Each year BarCare receives a few referrals from the Professional Conduct Department where the staff are concerned about a barrister’s mental health. In some instances a complaint has been made about a barristers’ behaviour or work that is below par. In many cases the barrister has been depressed and not functioning at the standard required. In these situations support and treatment is offered to the barrister. The goal of BarCare is to provide early intervention with professional help to avoid the risk of a complaint.

This will be my last annual report. The years have passed so quickly since I was first appointed. BarCare was expanded from a basic service involving a static website and fridge magnets bearing an emergency phone number to a triage service in 2008. It was an initiative of the then president, Anna Katzmann and the Executive Director Philip Selth. I agreed to give the role a six months trial to determine if the additional service would be worthwhile. Time has shown that there is a demand sufficient for the service to continue. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many people that have assisted in making the service function smoothly. In particular I thank the many members who have served on the Benevolent Fund Executive in the last eight years and the members of the Panel of Specialists who generously have provided appointments at short notice. I will be retiring towards the end of the year. Details of the ongoing service will be provided in due course.

Penny Johnston

Director, Care & Assistance (FY2015-16)

Table 1

Primary presenting problem 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15
Total 58 60 55 57 79
Siege 15
Bereavement 5 4 3 2 4
Psychological 8 12 15 7 17
Depression 13 8 10 11 6
Stress/anxiety 8 7 10 4 15
Relationship difficulties 4 4 1 8 9
Gambling 0 1 0 0 0
Career advice 0 0 0 0 1
Physical health 3 3 4 9 4
Alcohol 2 1 1 3 1
Financial 9 9 3 5 2
Advice and NFA 5 10 6 7 5
Rejected offer of assistance 1 1 2 1 0

Table 2

Source of referral 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15
Total 58 60 55 57 79
Colleague via bar 0 0 2 2 0
Bar staff 9 11 14 14 13
Self 31 28 27 22 48
Colleague 10 9 7 6 7
Family 3 4 1 3 2
Clerk 0 3 2 3 4
Advice for colleague 5 5 2 7 5

Table 3

Gender Male Female
2008-09 47 12
2009-10 45 20
2010-11 40 18
2011-12 36 24
2012-13 37 18
2013-14 37 20
2014-15 47 32

 Table 4

Age <34 35-44 45-55 56-65 > 65 Unknown
2010-11 4 10 13 19 3 9
2011-12 7 15 13 12 3 10
2012-13 6 12 13 13 4 7
2013-14 3 12 11 15 5 11
2014-15 6 22 27 13 2 9

Table 5

Years at bar <5 6-15 16-25 26-35 > 35 Unknown
2010-11 12 16 14 6 3 7
2011-12 16 14 11 3 4 12
2012-13 12 14 10 7 5 7
2013-14 8 16 12 6 3 12
2014-15 22 26 13 7 2 9