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President's Column: Welfare arm supports members behind the scenes

This column is usually my vehicle for commenting, favourably or otherwise, on the high-profile policies and actions of Police and policymakers, and the many media stories that involve members.

This can range from employment stand-offs, such as the recent pay freeze and our subsequent success at final offer arbitration, through to the merits of general arming and demands to improve frontline safety.

To the world outside the Police Association, these are what we are known for, and that’s a fair call. For members, however, there is much more to the association than its public face, and it is our welfare arm that often has far more impact on the lives of members and their families.

The welfare offering includes the Police Health Plan (35,000 members), member benefits and insurances. In the current commercial environment, it is increasingly important that we have strong professional management of these.

Our chief operating officer, Bryan McConnell, leads this arm of the association and, with the team he has built around him, I am confident in our ability to meet the increasingly difficult challenges faced by smaller insurance providers. This includes providing appropriate insurance cover at the best possible premium price to ensure we comply with the solvency levels required by the Reserve Bank and the Financial Markets Authority.

Reserve Bank expectations also required us to introduce greater independence between the Welfare Fund and its board. Understandably, this initially created nervousness as to whether “outsiders” might miss the point of the fund for members. However, the quality and commitment of the recently appointed independent board members have quashed that concern, to the benefit of members, and this flows into our other sought-after insurance products. In short, when tragedy strikes, our insurance team is equipped to ease the pressure on members.

Our Holiday Homes portfolio – considered the jewel in the welfare crown – is also designed as a pressure valve for members, offering affordable accommodation for a family holiday or to take a few days out to recover from a traumatic event such as an assault.

As with the new insurance environment, the Holiday Homes portfolio must be well managed, never more so given the headaches presented by Covid-19-enforced closures, changing demographics and member-use patterns. Huge house price increases mean we need to explore alternative options to enhance accommodation choices for our members, and that thinking is already under way.

It is great to see that most who join Police – recruits and Police employees – also join the association and the Welfare Fund, and there’s no better endorsement than the continued membership following retirement. We do not take this loyalty for granted and our boards, leadership team and committed staff work daily to keep members front of mind.

The Welfare Fund has been built on the hard work and dedication of many over years. I have every confidence our current team is just as determined to ensure it will be here for future generations.

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