Update from Dame Carol Black

Welcome to my first update for 2014. I hope that the year has been good for you so far and you haven’t been affected by the flooding.

I am aware that many of you will be submitting annual reports in a few months, and I really hope that you will take this opportunity to reflect and provide us with good practice that we can use to celebrate and share with other organisations. I would also encourage you to take this opportunity to consider further health and work and physical activity pledges as you progress with your health and wellbeing programmes. To this end, the health and work team have developed a framework to guide you in your journey, attached. I hope you find this helpful and we would welcome any comments.

I was delighted to attend the launch of the EY (formerly Ernst & Young) health and wellbeing programme on February 6, at which they became the first professional services firm to sign up to 8 of the health and work Responsibility Deal pledges. This coincided with ‘Time to Talk Day’, the official annual day of Time to Change, which encourages people to talk about mental health thus reducing stigma and discrimination. Given the stress-related pressures that staff in professional services organisations can be under and the link with Time to Talk, I was very pleased that they chose to focus on mental health. As well as establishing clinical care pathways for those in need, they will be rolling out Mental Health First Aiders across the firm who will be trained to act as a first point of call for staff facing mental health challenges or seeking advice. The firm has also formed a mental health buddy scheme to provide an informal support network to anyone affected by a mental health condition.

Earl Howe and me presenting the Responsibility Deal certificate to Steve Varley, UK & Ireland Managing Partner for EY.

Earl Howe and me presenting the Responsibility Deal certificate to Steve Varley, UK & Ireland Managing Partner for EY.

Keeping with the mental health theme, I was very pleased to be asked to speak recently at the launch of the OECD Report on Mental Health and Work in the UK. This important report takes a look at UK policy and practice in this area in comparison with eight other developed OECD countries which were also part of the study. It notes that compared with other OECD countries, the mental health problem in the UK is substantial. There are several recommendations for Government to take on board, but they also argue that employers should play a bigger part in supporting employees with mental illness. Despite a growth in awareness, workplace stigma remains a challenge and the OECD says that the excellent practice among a handful of large UK Businesses should not mask the fact that most UK employers do little, if anything. Given that 1 in 4 of us will experience stress, anxiety and depression at some point in our lives, you will all have employees experiencing this. With this in mind, I would strongly encourage you to sign up to the mental health pledge, if you haven’t already. Further details on the event, hosted by the Work Foundation, are available.

Another finding in this report is that the UK has challenges with turning evidence and insight into mental health and work into well-executed practice on the ground. In this respect, I would also like to point you to a report published by RAND in January for Department of Health and Department of Work and Pensions on proposals for measures to improve employment and health outcomes for people with common mental health problems, with a focus on better alignment of employment and health services. The Government has welcomed this report and is considering the detail of the recommendations with a view to taking forward further work in 2014. I will keep you updated.

I was very pleased to launch the Kent Healthy Business Awards on 22 January 2014. There was an excellent range of speakers and you can see the presentations on the website as here.

These awards are based on the Health, Work and Wellbeing Charter, an award scheme where employers are assessed according to three different standards ‘commitment’, ‘achievement’ and ‘excellence’ and receive accreditation according to the levels that they have met. The Charter and the Responsibility Deal are inextricably linked – the RD is the commitment and the charter shows how the pledges can be delivered. As you are already signed up to the Responsibility Deal you may wish to contact your local scheme for support in delivering your pledges and receive additional acknowledgement for your work. Public Health England have commissioned work to develop national standards, logo and accreditation process plus a website to provide a national portal signposting to local delivery schemes. We will keep you updated on this but in the meantime if you are interested in finding out more, contact us and we can forward your details to the relevant area.

I would like to draw your attention to the AARP Best Employers International Award. This recognises organisations of all sizes and sectors which value the skills and talents of experienced workers. Because policies that benefit older workers often benefit all workers, the programmes considered do not have to be dedicated exclusively to older workers. However, employers who can demonstrate that older workers particularly value their programmes may receive additional credit in the evaluation process. Applications are now open and the closing date is 24 April.

Further information is available and there is a webinar explaining the application form and highlighting tips for success.

Date for your diaries:
We will be holding a Construction and Civil Engineering Partnership Forum on Thursday 24 April 2014 at Arup’s offices in central London. We are lining up an exciting agenda and delegates will have the opportunity to hear how organisations have met the challenge of the new pledge and get practical tips on developing their own workplace health programme. Further details will follow but in the meantime please save the date in your diaries.

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