Have a mental health conversation on Time to Talk Day

Thursday 2nd February 2023 is Time to Talk Day, aimed at encouraging the nation to make time for a conversation about mental health.

Mental health focus groups can start important conversations in workplacesThe national awareness day, which was first launched in 2014, is run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness in England, in partnership with the Co-op.

It is a UK-wide campaign, which is also supported by SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) and See Me in Scotland, Inspire and Change Your Mind in Northern Ireland, and Time to Change in Wales.

They describe it as “a day for friends, families, communities and workplaces to come together to talk, listen and change lives.”

Community conversations about mental health

Talking about mental health can be easier if you're not face to faceThe charity partners aim to create supportive communities through conversations about mental health. Although starting these conversations may not be easy, talking can have a powerful impact; their research shows that open conversations in communities are key to supporting mental wellbeing across the nation.

Co-op have pledged to raise £8 million to help Mind, SAMH and Inspire to bring communities together to improve mental health. This money will help to support new services in over 50 local communities across the UK to support people’s mental wellbeing.

Time to Talk Day was originally conceived as part of the campaign Time to Change, which was launched by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness to help end mental health stigma and discrimination.

Statistics suggest that 1 in 4 adults will experience a mental health problem each year. This equates to around 15 million people. Talking openly about mental health helps to reduce the stigma surrounding it, so that these people feel empowered to seek help when they need it.

Get involved in Time to Talk Day

The Time to Talk Day website offers lots of ideas for ways in which people can participate and help spread awareness.

Individuals, schools, community groups and businesses can download a free resources pack including posters, social media images, conversation starters, bunting and more. The site also includes help and advice for organising events such as ‘lunch and learn’ sessions or simply sharing information on social media or making time to reach out to a friend.

How to start a mental health conversation

The site also includes some key advice for starting a conversation about mental wellbeing. Their tips include:

  1. Ask questions and listen – asking questions can give the person opportunity and encouragement to express how they’re feeling and can help you to understand their experiences better. Focus on asking open, non-judgmental questions, such as ‘how do you feel about that?’
  2. Think about the time and place – It can be easier to start a tricky conversation if you’re not sat face-to-face with the person. You could try starting a chat when you’re walking, cooking or sat in traffic.
  3. Don’t try and fix it – Talking can be a powerful tool to help someone who is experiencing poor mental wellbeing. They may not want advice and instead just want someone to listen. Recovery can be a complex and lengthy process and they may have already considered and adopted a number of strategies, so try to resist offering a quick fix ‘solution.’
  4. Treat them the same – Listen to the person, support them, but don’t treat them any differently. They are still the same person, and they want to know that you recognise that and that you can still do the same things you’ve always done together.
  5. Be patient – Although its important to try, they may simply not be ready to talk about what they’re going through, and that’s ok. They will know that they can come to you when they are ready to talk.

They also provide suggestions for ways of supporting someone if you are not able to get them talking, such as:

  • Finding something in your local community to get involved in together
  • Sending a text to let them know you’re thinking of them
  • Offering help with day-to-day tasks

While having conversations about mental health is a great thing, sometimes they can bring up sensitive and difficult subjects and feelings, and you may need to seek support. Mind offers advice about seeking help while Rethink Mental Illness can help you find support in your area.

Mental health support and training

Talking about mental health can be a powerful toolMental health learning and development solutions can also play a significant role in helping people to recognise risk factors and proactively support positive mental wellbeing across the UK.

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading national training provider delivering courses in subjects such as health and safetyfirst aidfire safety, manual handling, food safetymental healthhealth and social care and more.

An accredited Mindful Employer themselves, FRT’s specialist mental health training courses include Understanding Mental HealthMental Health Awareness in the WorkplaceManaging StressAnxiety and Phobias AwarenessSelf-Harm Awareness and Suicide Awareness.

They can also provide qualified, approved trainers to deliver accredited Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training courses, including the Adult, Youth and Lite versions.

A trainer from FRT says:

“People have often avoided talking openly about their mental wellbeing, and any struggles they may be experiencing. How often do we tell people we’re ‘fine’ when it’s not really the full story, because we’re not sure if they want to know how we’re really feeling?

“This is why starting an open and honest conversation about mental health can be so vital; people need to know that someone cares and that they are free to talk about their experiences and worries.

“Talking can really be that first all-important step to getting much-needed help and support, and training can give people the confidence and knowledge to start those conversations, and keep them going.”

Resources to support wellbeing

brief summary of our mental health training can now be downloaded as an infographic.

We also have a number of other free infographics available to download which provide simple tips for helping to manage your mental wellbeing. These include:

You can also download our free Guide to Mental Health Training from our website.

For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to info@firstresponsetraining.com.

Skills for Care urges care teams to #KeepLearning

Skills for Care have launched their new campaign, ‘Keep learning for success’, which aims to highlight the real benefits of continual professional development.

Skills for Care have launched their new campaign aimed at supporting care workers to keep learning

The campaign will run throughout January, February and March to support adult social care providers and their teams to #KeepLearning.

Skills for Care to highlight importance of training

The national workforce development charity will be using the campaign to put the spotlight on a range of training and funding opportunities available for care workers this year and to highlight the benefits that ongoing development has for both care staff and the people they support.

Skills for Care states that learning and development is vital for the social care workforce because it supports a good workplace culture and helps to attract, develop and retain care workers.

Learning and development for care staff is also essential for providing the best outcomes for people who receive care and support services.

Skills for Care provides resources for learning

The ‘Keep learning for success’ campaign will run across Skills for Care’s website, social media and other communication channels.

Those working within the social care sector will be able to access resources to support them with training and articles highlighting any learning and development opportunities available in 2023, as well as real life case studies and insights from people working in the industry.

#KeepLearning to support staff retention

Data shows that investment in learning and development opportunities for your workers can support with staff retention.

Skills for Care explains that average staff turnover rates decreased from 41.2% among staff who received no training, to 31.7% among those that had received some form of training.

Staff turnover rates also decrease as the provision of training increases. Data reveals that turnover rates among care workers who had received more than 30 instances of training was 9.1% lower than among care staff who had received just one instance of training.

#KeepLearning to provide the best outcomes in care

The CEO of Skills for Care, Oonagh Smyth, said that the advent of a new year was “a good time to plot your learning and development plans for the next 12 months.”

She explained: “Our latest campaign aims to highlight to social care employers the range of different options and funding available to support them in providing ongoing development for their teams.

“This is vital not only in supporting a good workplace culture and developing and keeping the people who work in care, but also in providing the best outcomes for people who draw on care and support.”

Further information about Skills for Care’s campaign

There's been an increase in domiciliary care jobsFurther information about the campaign and how providers and workers in the care sector can get involved is available on Skills for Care’s website.

Social care employers and their teams are encouraged to join in discussions about the campaign on social media using the hashtag #KeepLearning.

Skills for Care have launched the new campaign as the deadline for applications for the 2023 Workforce Development Fund (WDF) draws near.

The WDF provides funding for staff training in the adult social care sector and employers who wish to draw from it must apply by 28th February 2023, with all claims due by 31st May.

Social care learning and development solutions

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading, national training provider. They deliver over 7,000 courses each year in the fields of health and safety, first aid, fire safety, food safety, mental health, health and social care and other special focus topics.

Their diverse portfolio includes training awards designed for health and social care organisations, such as Infection Control and Prevention, Safeguarding Adults, Duty of Care, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Person Centred Care and Support and many others.

Their course portfolio spans Care Certificate standards, Level 2 and Level 3 Awards and training for supervisors and managers.

They also offer a portfolio of e-learning training courses, including COVID-19 Infection prevention, identification and control.

A trainer from FRT explains:

“People accessing care services need to be supported by people who have the right skills to help them lead fulfilling lives.

“The importance of training for the adult social care workforce cannot be underestimated. It is key to ensuring that this essential care and support is provided in a safe, dignified and person centred way.

“There is also evidence that providing proper training and further development opportunities can help to improve recruitment and retention issues for social care employers.”

For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to info@firstresponsetraining.com.

Too cold to work? HSE advises on working safely in the winter

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued advice and guidance for employers to help them protect their workers during the current icy cold weather in the UK.

Is it too cold to work? An icy snap has hit the UKAs the UK is hit with another bout of icy weather – expected to last until Friday (20th January), the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has issued a Level 3 Cold Alert in response to severe winter weather.

They have urged people to stay warm, advising that homes should be kept heated to at least 18°C, and to look out for the most vulnerable, such as older people or those with existing health conditions.

As the coldest night of the year was recorded on Monday 16th January, many schools have remained closed in parts of the UK and there are warnings of frost and snow.

Is it too cold to work?

Employers must help to protect workers in cold weather at work

All this may have you wondering, is it, in fact, too cold to work?

The law requires employers to provide a reasonable indoor temperature for the workplace. For outdoor sites, they must provide protection from adverse weather.

The Approved Code of Practice on the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations suggests that any indoor workplace should usually have a minimum temperature of at least 16°C, although this requirement drops to 13°C if much of the work involves “rigorous physical effort.”

The HSE advises that all employers should determine what a reasonable temperature is in their workplace and that they must:

  • Assess the risk to workers;
  • Put any necessary controls in place. These could be temporary or seasonal;
  • Consult with workers and their representatives on the best ways to cope with high or low temperatures at work.

Measures to protect workers in cold weather

Britain’s workplace health and safety watchdog says that, in addition to providing a comfortable workplace temperature across their site, employers should consider:

  • Local heating measures where a reasonable temperature cannot be maintained throughout each workroom, such as in hot or cold manufacturing processes
  • Rest facilities where necessary
  • Heating systems which do not give off dangerous or offensive levels of fume into the workplace

When people are required to work in cold temperatures, the HSE sets out some practical steps that employers can take to keep them as comfortable as possible. These include:

  • Providing adequate workplace heating, such as portable heaters, to ensure work areas remain warm enough when workers are present
  • Design processes which minimise exposure to cold areas and cold products
  • Implement measures to reduce draughts while still keeping adequate ventilation
  • Provide insulating floor coverings or special footwear when workers have to stand for long periods on cold floors
  • Provide appropriate protective clothing for cold environments

Employers could also limit exposure to the cold by implementing measures such as flexible working patterns or early or late starts to avoid particularly low temperatures.

They could also offer job rotation, relax formal dress codes and ensure they provide workers with enough breaks to allow them to get hot drinks or warm up in suitably heated areas.

There are also measures that workers themselves can take to keep warm and comfortable when working in the cold. The HSE advises that workers should add layers of clothing and take regular breaks to warm up.

Outdoor working and industry-specific advice

There are additional measures to consider for workers operating outdoor in the cold

The HSE provides additional advice for employers overseeing people working in cold outdoor environments. For outdoor working, employers should:

  • Ensure the personal protective equipment (PPE) issued to workers is suitable
  • Provide mobile facilities to enable workers to warm up, and soup or hot drinks
  • Allow more frequent rest breaks
  • Ensure workers are aware of the early symptoms of cold stress, such as a cough or body aches

In extremely low temperatures, employers may even need to consider delaying outdoor work until warmer times of the year.

In addition, there are British Standards which apply to cold stress in the workplace. There are also additional guidelines, requirements and industry-specific guidance for those who work with chilled and frozen food products.

Health and safety training and support for the workplace

First Response Training (FRT) is one of the UK’s largest and leading national training providers.

They deliver a wide and diverse range of training for businesses and organisations across all industry sectors and throughout the UK. Their course range includes training in the fields of health and safety, first aid, fire safety, manual handling, mental health, food safety, health and social care and more.

Their health and safety training is mapped to UK standards and legislation and follows HSE guidelines.

Based on a common sense, proportionate approach to workplace safety, training helps learners to understand the true benefits of creating a health and safe environment at work.

A trainer from FRT explains:

“We believe in creating safer working environments with people who care, and know that when workers feel safe, valued and protected, they are likely to be happier and more productive at work.

“Companies with a strong health and safety ethos can not only reduce workplace accidents and downtime, but also see better staff retention rates and increased employee satisfaction in the future.

“Health and safety training can help employers understand their responsibility to assess risks to workers, consult with workers on control measures to reduce those risks, and implement those measures. This applies to measures to maintain a comfortable, safe temperature for all workers as well as many other health and safety factors.”

For more information on any of the training courses that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or e-mail info@firstresponsetraining.com.

Blue Monday? Let’s embrace a happy and healthy start to 2023

We’re fast approaching the fabled ‘Blue Monday’ – the so-called most depressing day of the year. But it doesn’t have to be as gloomy as prescribed; we’ve got a few tips for helping to boost your mood at this time of year and get 2023 off to a happy, healthy start.

Blue Monday comes on the third Monday of JanuaryThe third Monday in January (16th, this year) has been designated as ‘Blue Monday’ due to a gloomy combination of post-Christmas debt, cold weather, dark mornings and evenings, and the early failure of New Year’s resolutions.

But we aren’t destined to feel miserable on this day.

The origins of Blue Monday

In fact, the concept of Blue Monday first surfaced in 2005 as part of a PR stunt for a travel company hoping to leverage the idea to help sell holidays. It’s since been embraced by many businesses hoping to sell an antidote to the January blues.

Based on a formula devised by psychologist Dr Cliff Arnall, the factors considered here – probable debt, low motivation, lack of sunlight, arctic weather – do make a compelling case for doom and gloom.

However, many experts consider Dr Arnall’s formula to be ‘pseudoscience,’ and, crucially, we can take action to combat any melancholy we do feel.

Reclaiming Blue Monday

As many experts also argue that the whole concept of Blue Monday can trivialise depression, we think its high time to reclaim this day and embrace it as a way of highlighting the importance of maintaining and promoting good mental health and wellbeing.

As a simple date on the calendar, we should acknowledge it has limited capacity in and of itself to make us feel depressed and instead take positive action to make sure we’re feeling mentally healthy and resilient at this time of year.

Blue Monday could become a positive thing if we use it to spread the word about prioritising our mental health and wellbeing all year-round.

8 Steps to a happy and healthy 2023

With that in mind, we’ve rounded up some tips and advice for helping to promote mental wellbeing and ensure you get the New Year off to a happy and healthy start, but without putting too much pressure on yourself.

  1. Get Outside

Ok, so we know it’s often dark, windy, wet and cold in January. But during those moments when the weather lets up a little, try to take the opportunity to wrap up warm and head on out.

Getting some fresh air and connecting with nature is a really powerful way of improving your mood and boosting your wellbeing. You could go for a walk in a local park, visit an area of natural beauty or take your usual form of exercise outdoors.

Doing this as often as you can will really benefit your mental health.

  1. Connect with People

Connecting with the people who mean the most to us, and make us feel good about ourselves, obviously has immeasurable benefits.

You don’t need to be a social butterfly or to be constantly messaging everyone, but regularly taking the time to check in with friends, family and colleagues can make you feel happier and more grounded.

Meaningful social connections are key to your emotional wellbeing year-round, and spending quality time with those we love can make us feel valued and boost our self-esteem.

  1. Disconnect from Screens

Most of us are probably guilty of staring at our phones way too much.

Endless scrolling of social media feeds can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction, inadequacy and failure.

We all know that comparison is the thief of joy, and comparing our own day-to-day lives with the glossy highlight reels we see on Instagram can seriously erode our mental wellbeing over time.

Similarly, we often consume a lot of news via our smartphones. And we all know the news is seldom light-hearted and positive! Overconsumption of negative news stories through news sites and social media takes its toll and can often leave us feeling anxious and stressed.

While breaking up with your phone completely may seem impossible, you can take small steps to reduce and improve your use.

Avoid using your smartphone for 30 minutes before bed, as this can negatively impact your sleep. It’s best to keep it switched off, or at least on silent, and perhaps in another room, while you try to get some shut eye.

Try to take regular breaks from your smartphone and other technology throughout the day.

Be aware of any phone usage stats provided by your phone, and set up limits and notifications if possible. You could also try deleting certain apps that you know affect your mindset – or at least move them so they are not on your home screen and immediately accessible.

  1. Get Organised

This could relate to a number of different things.

Focus on whatever will help you the most, and make you feel positive.

It could be a spot of decluttering, such as sorting old clothes to take to the charity shop or sell on secondhand sites. It might be writing down your intentions for the year and setting out plans for how you will accomplish what you want.

It could be meal planning and prepping or sorting your spice rack; whatever gives you that lighter, brighter, tidy mind feeling. Identify that, and get it done.

  1. Look After Yourself

Your mental and physical health go hand-in-hand.

We’re not talking about embarking on any drastic ‘New Year, new me’ fad diets here. Instead, aim for a sustainable, realistic and flexible approach to supporting your physical health and wellbeing long-term.

Aim to eat a healthy, balanced diet at least 80% of the time, make sure you drink plenty of water and minimise your alcohol intake.

You should also aim to move your body in a way that you enjoy a few times a week. This is great for your physical health and fitness and the endorphins released during exercise can also really boost your mood and general wellbeing.

Being generally active in a low-key way on a day-to-day basis can also help – so think about getting your steps in throughout the day.

In addition to this, sleep is also really important for our mental and physical health so try to make sure you’re getting enough. Establishing a good, relaxing bedtime routine and going to bed and waking up at set times each day can all help to improve your sleep.

You don’t need to make dramatic changes or do everything all at once; just remember that a healthy lifestyle can help you to feel more motivated, regulate your mood and encourage a positive mindset.

  1. Practice Gratitude

Bear with us here! We can almost feel your eyes rolling. But don’t dismiss this one! Practising gratitude may sound a bit ‘new-age’ but it can have significant benefits, from enhancing your mental health to improving your sleep, boosting your self-esteem and improving your relationships with others.

Practising gratitude is really about paying attention and engaging with the positive things in the world around you, and taking simple steps to create a positive mindset.

3 steps to practising gratitude are:

  1. Noticing and recognising good things around you
  2. Acknowledging and appreciating those things. Really savour and pay attention to them
  3. Expressing your gratitude, either out loud, to yourself, or by writing it down. It could also include thanking someone else

Try incorporating this into your daily routine. Each day, in the morning or night, you could think of 3 things that you’re thankful for. These could be big or small, from the fact that all the traffic lights on your way to work were green this morning to cuddles with your child, or receiving good news at work.

The key thing is taking time to really visualise the positive things in your life that you’re grateful for. Some people even keep a gratitude journal so that they can jot down the good things they notice and appreciate each day.

  1. Help Others

Caring for or doing things for others can really do wonders for your own mental health and wellbeing.

Reach out to others who may need support, perform a good deed for someone, engage in simple acts of kindness or start volunteering for a charitable organisation.

There are endless opportunities to do some good in this world and caring for others can strengthen bonds and boost your self-worth.

  1. Take Time for Yourself

This one sounds great in theory, but we all know it can be a lot easier said than done in practice.

But if you can set aside some time, taking even just 10 minutes to do something for yourself can really improve your wellbeing. It could be as simple as sitting and having a cup of tea in peace and quiet.

If you have more time, you could take some time out to do something you really enjoy, like a hobby, or indulge in some self-care, like a nice relaxing bath. Alternatively, you may just take the time to rest and relax, or practice some mindfulness.

Whatever it is, focus on what makes you feel happy, and try to do it regularly.

Banishing Blue Monday

So, there it is.

We know we don’t need to give in to the hype and feel low on the third Monday in January just because the media tells us we should be feeling gloomy.

We can all take responsibility for our mental health and wellbeing and ensure we’re taking proactive steps all year-round to support and promote positive mental health.

Why not download our free 8 Steps to a Good Start to 2023 infographic to keep as a helpful reminder when you need to boost your mood?

Support for mental health year-round

Of course, there are some people who genuinely are feeling depressed on Blue Monday.

Statistics indicate that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year in the UK. But, crucially, these people are struggling with their mental health for a lot longer than one day, and it’s unlikely to be because they broke their New Year’s resolution.

To understand how to help support someone who is experiencing anxiety, depression or another mental health problem, you could undertake specialist mental health training.

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading national training provider delivering courses in a wide range of subjects, including mental health.

An accredited Mindful Employer themselves, FRT’s specialist mental health training courses include Understanding Mental Health, Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace, Managing Stress, Anxiety and Phobias Awareness, Self-Harm Awareness and Suicide Awareness.

They can also provide qualified, approved trainers to deliver accredited Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training courses, including the Adult, Youth and Lite versions.

For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to info@firstresponsetraining.com.

Third of UK adults feel anxious about their finances

There are worries about the state of the nation’s mental health after a recent survey found that more than one third (34%) of adults in the UK felt anxious due to financial worries.

The cost-of-living crisis is negatively impacting the mental health of adults in the UK as they feel anxious and stressed over money worriesThe survey, commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation, also found that 1 in 10 adults felt hopeless about their finances, while 3 in 10 reported feeling stressed.

The Foundation says the results are a “warning sign” of a significant rise in mental health problems across the UK amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Anxiety caused by cost-of-living crisis

The survey, conducted by Opinium in November 2022, questioned 3000 adults aged 18 and over and found that, during the previous month, 29% of respondents had experienced stress, 34% experienced anxiety and 10% felt hopeless because of their financial situation.

Many adults are anxious about being able to pay household bills

Looking ahead, two thirds (66%) of adults said they were most concerned about being able to heat their home.

In addition, over 60% were worried about not being able to pay general monthly household bills, and 71% were concerned about not being able to maintain their standard of living.

Half of respondents also admitted being at least a little concerned about not being able to afford to buy food during the next few months.

Among younger adults aged 18 to 34, this number jumped to 67%.

Charity calls for action

The Foundation has urged the government to take action, calling on them to protect people across the UK in the following ways:

  • Safeguarding financial benefits, so they rise with inflation
  • Increasing the capacity of debt services, food banks, community organisations and social security departments
  • Providing these services with staff training on addressing the trauma that claimants may have experienced
  • Maintaining and extending free or subsidised public transport to allow people to stay connected to friends and family

The Foundation says evidence shows that financial strain and poverty are key contributors to a decline in mental wellbeing and the development of conditions such as anxiety, stress and depression.

Their Chief Executive, Mark Rowland, explains:

“Our findings are a warning sign of the mental health consequences of the cost-of-living crisis. We must protect public services and benefits at this crucial time. If people are struggling to meet their essential needs for a warm home and enough healthy food for their families, we can expect a significant rise in mental health problems as the burden of financial strain continues to take its toll.”

Mental Health Foundation calls for action on cost of living crisis

He added: “[…] Preventing mental health problems is vital. Our mental health services are already stretched beyond capacity; we cannot sit on the sidelines and watch them collapse under ever-greater demand.”

In 2022, the Mental Health Foundation published research in partnership with the London School of Economics and Political Science which estimated that mental health problems cost the UK economy a staggering £118 billion every year.

The report revealed that much of this is preventable, and outlined cost-effective measures to prevent poor mental wellbeing.

Open letter on mental health and the cost-of-living crisis

Poverty can impact child mental health

In November, the Foundation wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak about the cost-of-living crisis and mental health in the UK.

Describing it as a “shameful and unnecessary situation”, they highlighted the fact that poverty is the single biggest driver of poor mental health in children.

Signed by leading representatives from the Samaritans, Mental Health First Aid England, Mind and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, among others, the letter stated:

“[…] the first intervention to reduce mental ill health and prevent suicide is to ensure every household has the means to be safe and warm with enough to eat.”

Advice for managing mental health and money

As well as urging the government to take action, the Foundation has provided help and advice for people experiencing stress, anxiety or depression as a result of financial worries.

Guidance also includes signposting to a number of help and support services.

Advice for those who are feeling financial strain includes:

  • Get control of your finances – ensure you’re receiving any benefits you may be entitled to. You can speak to your local Council and Citizens Advice Bureau for help. You may be able to access emergency loans or grants, if needed. Try recording your income and outgoings to get a better perspective on your finances, and you could also try downloading a free budgeting app.
  • Help with housing, food and energy costs – Seek out community support and resources, such as foodbanks as well as school uniform banks, toy libraries and more. Local libraries often signpost community resources and provide free activities for families. Shelter can provide support for housing issues or homelessness, while the website Money Saving Expert provides lots of practical information and advice forDebts can impact mental health tackling rising energy costs.
  • Tackle your debts – the Foundation emphasises that banks and credit card companies will usually be able to make suitable repayment arrangements to help you manage your debts, while local councils have special arrangements to help with council tax payments. Contact services as soon as possible to get help with any money you owe. You can also contact the debt charity StepChange for expert advice and solutions.
  • Look after your health – Contact your GP, relevant charities or a counsellor if you are worried about your mental health. Many organisations can offer free or low-cost therapy services. You could also reach out to a friend, relative or colleague for support. If you are struggling with alcohol or drug use, or other potentially harmful behaviours as a method of coping with stress or anxiety, access free and confidential help and advice from relevant charities.
  • Eating on a budget – Find tips, advice, recipes and other resources for eating on a budget from the Association of UK Dieticians, many big supermarkets and the BBC Good Food website (search ‘Budget recipes People are feeling anxious and stressed about affording food amid cost of living crisisand advice’). If you are struggling to buy essential food items, contact the Trussell Trust for advice and information about your local food banks.
  • Get a good nights’ sleep – Try to create a good sleep routine by getting up and going to bed at the same times each day, and avoid afternoon naps. Try to close curtains at night and keep them open during the day to aid your body clock and avoid using technology, such as smartphones, before bed.
  • Limit your exposure to bad news – Try to be aware of your mood and feelings when you’re watching TV, listening to the radio or scrolling online, and if you start to experience negative feelings, such as anxiety, switch off and do something else.
  • Find time for yourself – Although this can be hard to do, regularly setting aside time to carry out positive or relaxing activities for yourself can be extremely beneficial for your wellbeing. You could try mindfulness exercises or take some time to reflect on positive elements of your day.

For more information, help and guidance, visit the Mental Health Foundation’s website.

Learning solutions for positive mental health

Mental health learning and development solutions can also play a significant role in helping people to recognise mental health risks and proactively support positive mental health and wellbeing across the UK.

Money worries and debt can impact mental health

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading national training provider delivering courses in subjects such as health and safety, first aid, fire safety, manual handling, food safety, mental health, health and social care and more.

An accredited Mindful Employer themselves, FRT’s specialist mental health training courses include Understanding Mental Health, Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace, Managing Stress, Anxiety and Phobias Awareness, Self-Harm Awareness and Suicide Awareness.

They can also provide qualified, approved trainers to deliver accredited Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training courses, including the Adult, Youth and Lite versions.

A trainer from FRT says:

“In the depths of winter, during a cost-of-living crisis and following a year of political upheaval, it’s more important than ever that we all work hard to prioritise our mental health and wellbeing.

“There are simple steps we can all take to proactively support and promote positive mental health and it’s important that people are aware of these and that we are focusing on preventative strategies as well as treatment and recovery for those that need it.

“Our mental health courses look at ways of supporting mental health, including tools such as Mind’s five ways to wellbeing, and explore techniques to build emotional resilience.

“Businesses and organisations across the UK can experience immense benefits if they provide relevant mental health training for their staff.”

Resources to support wellbeing

A brief summary of our mental health training can now be downloaded as an infographic.

We also have a number of free infographics available to download which provide simple tips for helping to manage your mental wellbeing. These include:

You can also download our free Guide to Mental Health Training from our website.

For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to info@firstresponsetraining.com.

Child mental health referrals up 39% after ‘difficult’ year

Referrals for child mental health services have risen by 39% in England in just one year, official data has revealed.

Child mental health is declining in EnglandNHS referrals for mental health treatment for under-18s increased to more than 1.1 million during 2021-22, compared to 839,570 in 2020-21, and 850,741 in 2019-20.

The figures – branded “alarming” by the NSPCC – represent children who are suicidal, self-harming or suffering serious depression or anxiety, as well as those living with eating disorders.

Social issues impacting child mental health

Child mental health has been negatively impacted by the pandemicExperts say key social issues, including the Covid-19 pandemic, social inequality, austerity and online harm are all fuelling soaring rates of mental ill-health among children and young people.

They also said that children continue to face increased academic pressures to catch up following the Covid-19 lockdowns, while worrying about their future prospects amid a cost-of-living crisis and issues like climate change.

Mental health services unable to respond quickly enough

Dr Elaine Lockhart, Chair of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, warned that overstretched services mean that children are sliding through the cracks.

She explained that “specialist services are needing to respond to the most urgent and the most unwell,” such as children suffering from psychosis, suicidal thoughts and severe anxiety disorder. Meanwhile, targets for seeing children with eating disorders were sliding “completely.”

Data from NHS Digital shows that hospital admissions for children with eating disorders have risen by 82% in two years.

Lockhart added:

“I think what’s frustrating for us is if we could see them more quickly and intervene, then the difficulties might not become as severe as they do, because they’ve had to wait.”

A difficult year for mental health

Child mental health has been impacted by social issues such as austerityLockhart explains that child mental health had been declining before the pandemic struck, with increasing social inequality, austerity and online harm all playing a role.

Then Covid-19 hit and lockdowns were introduced, resulting in “such a negative effect on a lot of children. Those who had been doing well became vulnerable and those who were vulnerable became unwell.”

Tom Madders from the youth mental health charity YoungMinds described the new figures as “deeply concerning.”

He said:

“The last year has been one of the most difficult for this age group, emerging from the pandemic to limited prospects for their futures, coupled with an increase in academic pressure to catch up on lost learning, and the impact of the cost-of-living crisis.

“The current state of play cannot continue. The government must get a grip of the situation.”

More funding for mental health services

Meanwhile, a spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care said they were investing £2.3 billion a year into mental health services so that an additional 345,000 children and young people will be able to access mental health support by 2024.

They added that they were “aiming to grow the mental health workforce by 27,000 more staff by this time too.”

Child mental health training and support

Child mental health training is importantFirst Response Training (FRT) is a leading national training provider delivering courses in subjects such as health and safety, first aid, fire safety, manual handling, food safety, mental health, health and social care, safeguarding and more.

They work with a large number of early years and childcare providers, as well as schools, colleges, and children’s services.

Their courses include Understanding Mental Health, Youth Mental Health First Aid, Anxiety Awareness, Self-Harm Awareness and Suicide Awareness.

A trainer from FRT says:

“Children have faced isolation, loneliness, academic upheaval, bereavement, money worries and other difficulties since the pandemic, and, on top of this, when they do come forward with concerns about their mental health they may have to wait a long time for the specialist support they need.

“It’s therefore vitally important that anyone who works closely with children and young people has an understanding of mental health, is able to spot the signs that someone may be struggling and can offer appropriate early help and support. Focused training can help with this.”

For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to info@firstresponsetraining.com.

Parents urged to keep sick children at home

Parents have been urged to keep children away from school or nursery if they feel unwell and have a fever, as flu, Covid-19 and Strep A infections continue to rise.

The advice was issued by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) as families across the UK prepare for children to return to school and childcare providers following the Christmas holidays.

The UKHSA warned that cases of flu and Covid-19 are “currently circulating at high levels and are likely to continue to increase in the coming weeks,” and added that cases of scarlet fever, caused by Group A Streptococcus, “also continue to be reported.”

They explained that following simple steps can help to protect infants and children, minimise the spread of winter illnesses in education and childcare settings and also protect wider communities.

Parents are advised that children should only return to education and childcare settings once they feel better and their fever has resolved.

Stay-home and mask-wearing advice issued

Professor Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser at the UKHSA, said:

“Helping children to learn about the importance of good hand hygiene is also key, so practice regular handwashing at home with soap and warm water. Catching coughs and sneezes in tissues then binning them is another simple way to help stop illness from spreading.”

She also advised that adults should also try to remain at home if they are unwell, and should wear a face covering if they are required to go out in public.

Anyone who is unwell is also advised to avoid healthcare settings and contact with vulnerable people, unless urgent.

Children can still access flu jab

Professor Hopkins revealed that uptake of the flu vaccine had been low among young children this season but stated that it was still available for:

  • All children who were aged two or three on 31st August 2022
  • All primary school children
  • Some secondary school children

She explained:

“Flu can be very unpleasant and, in some cases, can lead to more serious illness. Getting your child vaccinated protects them and others they come into contact with, and it’s still not too late.”

Official data shows that around 1 in 45 people were infected with Covid-19 during the week ending 9th December. Hospital admissions from flu in England were at their highest level since the winter of 2017-18.

Absence rates across English schools already rose sharply back at the beginning of December, with 7.5% of children off sick at that point, compared to 2.6% at the start of the term.

In fact, school absences by that point had surpassed absences for the whole autumn period of 2021, when cases of the Covid-19 Omicron variant were soaring.

Government advice welcomed by schools

James Bowen, who is the Director of Policy for school leaders’ union NAHT said there “does appear to be an unusually high level of illness around at the moment, even for this time of year.

“Advice from government is welcome to give schools and parents clarity on when children should stay at home.

“It is quite common for school policies to already state that children with a fever should remain at home, so this shouldn’t represent a major departure from existing policies.”

Be aware of Strep A

Parents are advised to ensure they are aware of the symptoms of a Strep A infection, as it is highly contagious and, while most cases are mild and can be managed at home, it can cause serious illness and complications.

Symptoms of a Strep A Infection may include:

  • High temperature
  • Swollen glands
  • Aching body
  • Sore throat
  • Rash, which feels rough like sandpiper (scarlet fever)
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Scabs and sores (impetigo)
  • Pain and swelling (cellulitis)

Parents have become alarmed after a number of children have recently died from serious Strep A infections.

Known as invasive group A streptococcal infection or iGAS, these serious cases occur when the bacteria breaks through the body’s immune defences. They are very rare but require urgent, early medical treatment.

Warning signs of iGAS include

  • Fever (temperature above 38 degrees)
  • Severe muscle aches

The NHS website advises that parents should seek help from a GP or NHS 111 if their child is unwell and deteriorating. Other warning signs include if they are feeding or eating much less than normal, if they have fewer wet nappies than usual or are going to the loo less than usual, or are showing other signs of dehydration. Parents should also seek advice if poorly children seem very tired or irritable.

Parents should call 999 or go to their nearest A&E if their child is having difficulty breathing, there are pauses when they breathe or their skin, tongue or lips are blue or grey. Children who are floppy and cant be woken, or are unable to stay awake, also require urgent attention.

Strep A can be caught through close contact with infected people and coughs and sneezes. It can spread easily and outbreaks can occur in settings such as schools and care homes, hence the latest advice.

Safety training for those working with children

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading national training provider delivering courses in subjects such as health and safety, first aid, fire safety, manual handling, food safety, mental health, health and social care and more.

They work with a large number of early years, schools and childcare providers, as well as with the top colleges and children’s services.

Their courses include Paediatric First Aid, Emergency Paediatric First Aid, Health and Safety for Child Carers and the Safeguarding Children.

They also provide Infection Control training and a Covid-19 Infection Prevention, Identification and Control e-learning course.

A trainer from FRT says:

“Colds, flu and other illnesses are always rife this time of year and the lifting of Covid restrictions after a couple of years of limited mixing has also led to a rise in infections.

“It’s important to be vigilant and aware of symptoms and how to manage them, without panicking unduly. Try to avoid mixing where possible to reduce chances of transmission and impacting vulnerable people.”

For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to info@firstresponsetraining.com.

How First Response Training is responding to the latest vaccination requirements

National workplace training provider, First Response Training (FRT), has taken decisive steps to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its staff, clients, learners and they people they support.

The leading training provider, which works with hundreds of local and national health and social care providers on a regular basis, has confirmed that all of its trainers are double vaccinated.

FRT have verified that all of their trainers have received two doses of an approved Covid-19 vaccine and have stated that it is their policy, for the foreseeable future, not to recruit or deploy any trainers that remain unvaccinated.

In addition to this, all trainers carry out Lateral Flow Tests (LFT) on a twice-weekly basis and the results are recorded centrally. Trainers can only deliver courses if they have evidence of a negative test result.

Providing Covid-19 secure training

The training provider continued to provide a wide range of workplace training throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, adopting stringent safety procedures to control the risk of transmission. Their Covid-19 Secure Pledge encompassed a number of measures in line with government guidelines, recommendations and changing lockdown rules. This included the development and regular updating of a Covid-19 risk assessment addressing their training activities and additional secure measures for practical training.

FRT also supported many of their clients to move their staff training programmes across to the virtual learning environment, delivering over 2,000 live, remote webinars as well as providing bespoke e-learning courses throughout the pandemic.

The company was also able to access priority vaccination for their trainers due to their role in delivering essential training to frontline workers within settings which housed or supported vulnerable people.

Vaccination requirements for care home workers

Current government guidelines state that all care home workers must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by 11th November 2021 in order to continue to carry out work within a residential care setting, although certain exemptions do apply. Many care services have also confirmed that they will not be allowing anyone who has not been vaccinated to enter their setting.

As a major provider of training to the adult social care sector, with Skills for Care Endorsed Learning Provider status, FRT takes its position on this matter very seriously.

Amy Ridge, Managing Director at FRT, explained: “We deliver training for some of the providers and frontline workers who were hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. They require certain assurances from us, and we are committed to protecting their safety and to enabling them to continue to provide safe, high-quality care through the provision of essential training.

“We must therefore confirm, after careful consideration, that we have made the decision to only utilise trainers who have received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. Our entire training team is double vaccinated, and we will not be using any trainers who remain unvaccinated.

“We understand that taking up the offer of vaccination is a personal choice, and can be a sensitive issue, but we have to take steps to protect the health, safety and welfare of our staff, our clients, our learners and the people they support – many of whom are among the most vulnerable members of society.”

You can view and download First Response Training’s poster regarding their policy on vaccination for trainers here.

Annual social care report reveals impact of pandemic

The latest report into adult social care serves as a “stark reminder” that sector bosses face “significant recruitment challenges” with vacancy rates steadily rising since the pandemic.

There's a shortage of care sector workersSkills for Care have published their annual report on ‘The State of the adult social care sector and workforce in England.’

The report, which is based on data provided by sector employers to the Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set (ASC-WDS), shines a light on the significant impact that the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK has had on both the short- and long-term challenges faced within the sector.

Rise in care worker vacancies, turnover and absences

The data shows that, on average, 6.8% of adult social care roles were vacant in 2020-21, which equates to around 105,000 vacancies being advertised on an average day.

Vacancy rates have steadily risen in the sector since May 2021, when lockdown measures began to ease, and the wider economy started to open back up. By August, vacancy rates had reached their pre-pandemic levels.

The vacancy rate within the sector has remained high at above 6% for the previous 6 years, with turnover rates also persistently high, hitting 28.5% in 2020-21. Turnover did fall during the pandemic, but since March 2021, many adult social care employers have reported that staff retention is now more of a struggle than it was pre-pandemic.

For registered nurses in adult social care, the turnover rate stood at 38.2%, which is much higher than for their counterparts in the NHS (8.8%).

The issue has no doubt been exacerbated by a rise in staff absences, which have nearly doubled from an average of 5.1 days lost in 2019-20 to 9.5 in 2020-21.

Recruitment and retention struggles in care

The report shows that, since March 2021, filled posts have also fallen by around -1.8%. It represents the first time that the number of jobs (filled posts) has fallen in the sector, and as it is happening at the same time that vacancy rates are increasing, it indicates that care providers are struggling with both recruitment and retention.

Skills for Care says that it is important “to make a strong case that these jobs offer highly-skilled careers where you can progress to leadership positions.”

They say that listening to people who use care and support services can help recruiters understand what they want. They need to be supported by people who have the right skills to do so, and people who are trained and developed are then less likely to leave their roles.

Indeed, the report found that adult social care employers with “favourable workplace metrics”, such as high levels of learning and development, had lower staff turnover.

People want to be supported at home

The report also reveals that the steady shift from people receiving support in care homes to receiving support to live in their own homes has been accelerated by the pandemic.

Domiciliary care services were largely responsible for the 2.8% increase in jobs across the adult social care sector, with 40,000 additional jobs recorded within domiciliary care specifically – an increase of 7.4%.

At the same time, care home occupancy rates fell from 86% prior to the pandemic to 77% in March 2021.

Skills for Care says that reforms in the adult social care sector must recognise the desire for people to remain in their own homes.

Recognition and reward for care workers

Although the National Living Wage (NLW) has helped to boost the median nominal care worker hourly rate by 6% since March 2020, the report reveals that employers in the sector have found it more difficult to maintain differentials for more experienced workers.

Care workers with five years’ or more experience in the sector are currently being paid, on average, just 6p more per hour than those who have less than one year of experience.

Skills for Care says that social care is a growing market which currently contributes £50.3 billion to the nation’s economy.

They are now calling for the 1.54 million people who “worked tirelessly throughout lockdown” to be recognised and properly rewarded for their efforts.

They also highlight the fact that social care workers from a Black, Asian or minority ethnicity currently make up more than a fifth (21%) of the workforce. The workforce is also 82% female and almost a third of its members (27%) are aged over 55.

The workforce development charity says that the adult social care sector must embrace this opportunity to become an employer for all.

Skills for Care is committed to working with government and stakeholders across the sector on the upcoming whitepaper to develop a shared vision for a workforce “which enables people to live the lives they want, where they want.”

Creating a sustainable adult social care workforce

The CEO of Skills for Care, Oonagh Smith, commented:

“This report is a stark reminder that our recruitment challenges continue, and to help tackle that we need to properly reward and value care workers for their high skill levels and dedication. We know that this is a priority for the new Government White Paper expected on adult social care this year and look forwarded to seeing the measures contained.”

She added that the social care sector enables “people in our families, our friends and people in our communities to be supported to live the lives they choose. And the workforce in social care are the people that provide that support every day, in every single community.”

Creating a sustainable workforce is now a top priority for Skills for Care, but Ms Smith says: “[…] we know from speaking to employers that the pandemic has had a huge impact on people working in social care. The rich data from this authoritative annual report confirms this pressure, as well as showing us longer term trends in adult social care.”

One doctor told the BBC that a shortage of adult social care workers would have a knock-on effect on the NHS this winter.

Dr Owden, who worked in a hospital discharge ward at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, told the BBC that carers needed to be better paid, with a proper career structure and recognition of their skills. He said a better resourced system would relieve pressure from the NHS when they need it most.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care said they appreciated “the dedication and tireless efforts of care workers throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond,” and said they would be providing “at least £500 million” to support the workforce.

They added: “We are also working to ensure we have the right number of staff with the skills to deliver high quality care to meet increasing demands. This includes running regular national recruitment campaigns and providing councils with over £1 billion of additional funding for social care this year.”

You can download a copy of The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England report and an infographic showing all the key findings online.

Learning and development opportunities for care

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading, national training provider. They deliver over 7,000 courses each year in the fields of health and safety, first aid, fire safety, food hygiene, mental health, health and social care and other special focus topics.

Their diverse portfolio includes training awards designed for health and social care organisations, such as Infection Control and PreventionSafeguarding AdultsDuty of CareEquality, Diversity and InclusionUnderstanding Mental Health and many others.

Their course portfolio spans Care Certificate standards, Level 2 and Level 3 Awards and training for supervisors and managers.

They also offer a portfolio of e-learning training courses, including COVID-19 Infection prevention, identification and control.

A trainer from FRT explains:

“It is vitally important that the most vulnerable people in our communities can be provided with high quality, compassionate and person-centred care from the right people at the right time, in the right place.

“We need to recognise and reward the adult social care workforce to ensure this essential care and support is provided.

“There is evidence that providing proper training and further development opportunities can help to improve recruitment and retention issues for employers.”

For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to info@firstresponsetraining.com.

New campaign to improve public mental health

The government has launched a new campaign to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the general public.

The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), which was only officially launched on 1st October 2021, has initiated its first campaign as part of the government’s mission to tackle health problems at an earlier stage.

The Better Health – Every Mind Matters campaign is designed to empower people to support their own mental health through practical tips and expert advice.

Half of adults struggling with mental wellbeing

It comes as new research commissioned by OHID, which will be responsible for tackling health inequalities across the nation, found that nearly half (49%) of adults in England said that the Covid-19 pandemic had a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

The campaign aims to tackle this by urging people to find out “what works for me” in terms of reducing feelings of stress and anxiety, boosting mood, sleeping better and feeling in greater control of their lives.

The OHID study also revealed that just over a third of adults in England (34% or 15.1 million people) said they did not know what they could do to improve their own mental wellbeing.

Researchers also found that younger adults aged 18-34 were the most significantly affected group, with 57% within this age group saying that the pandemic had negatively affected their mental health and 44% admitting that they did not know what to do to improve it.

The Every Mind Matters platform enables people to answer 5 questions in exchange for a tailored ‘Mind Plan’ which will provide them with personalised tips.

Expert mental health advice

Minister for Care and Mental Health, Gillian Keegan, said the general public had demonstrated “great resilience” throughout the last 18 months but that the pandemic had “served as a stark reminder that we all need to look after ourselves not only physically, but mentally.”

She added:

“There are simple steps we can all be taking to improve our mental wellbeing and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. For anyone who is unsure what they can do, I urge you to visit Every Mind Matters and take advantage of the expert advice and practical tips available to you.”

Meanwhile, the NHS National Director for Mental Health, Claire Murdoch, assured people: “[…] The NHS is here for you, so if you’re struggling with anxiety and depression our rapidly expanding talking therapy services are available, while anyone who needs urgent help can access our 24/7 NHS crisis lines – available to people of all ages.

“I would encourage everyone to look after their mental health, and by answering 5 simple questions, get a tailored ‘mind plan’ which will give you tips to help boost your mood, sleep better and deal with stress and anxiety.”

Support for mental health campaign

The new campaign is supported by a coalition of mental health charities, including CALM, The Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Innovations and a range of commercial, third sector, NHS and local authority partners, including Mental Health First Aid England.

It has also received celebrity backing. Actor, writer and mental health advocate Stephen Fry is voicing a new television advert that highlights ‘what works for me’ and provides details of simple steps people can take to support their mental health, such as being active, talking about their worries or taking up a hobby.

He spoke in support of the campaign, saying:

“It’s fair to say that the last 18 months have presented us all with uniquely different and challenging obstacles from a mental health perspective. However, just like keeping in physical shape, it is important to find activities you enjoy to keep your mind healthy.

“I’ve found food preparation and cooking has helped me relax over the past year. It’s all about finding what works best for you to help deal with the everyday stresses and strains of life – it could be exercise, baking a cake or getting stuck in with gardening – the list is endless.

“If you are struggling and need advice then check out the Every Mind Matters website for tips and guidance to get you started today.”

Mental health training and support

Mental health learning and development solutions can also play a significant role in helping managers, supervisors and frontline workers to recognise mental health risks and proactively support positive mental health and wellbeing across the UK workforce.

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading national training provider delivering courses in subjects such as health and safety, first aid, fire safety, manual handling, food hygiene, mental health, health and social care, safeguarding and more.

An accredited Mindful Employer themselves, FRT’s specialist mental health training courses include Understanding Mental HealthMental Health Awareness in the WorkplaceManaging Stress in the WorkplaceAnxiety and Phobias AwarenessSelf-Harm Awareness and Suicide Awareness.

They can also provide qualified, approved trainers to deliver accredited Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training courses, including the Adult, Youth and Lite versions.

A trainer from FRT says:

“It’s vitally important that we prioritise our mental health and wellbeing in the same way that we do our physical health.

“There are simple steps we can all take to proactively support and promote positive mental wellbeing and it’s important that people are aware of these and that we are focusing on preventative strategies as well as treatment and recovery for those that need it. Our mental health courses look at ways of supporting mental health, including Mind’s five ways to wellbeing, and explore techniques to build emotional resilience.

“Businesses and organisations across the UK can experience immense benefits if they provide relevant mental health training for their staff.”

We have a number of free infographics available to download which provide simple tips for helping to manage your mental health and wellbeing. These include:

You can also download our free Guide to Mental Health Training from our website.

For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to info@firstresponsetraining.com.

Firms warned not to ‘sleepwalk’ into health and safety nightmare

Following reports that job vacancies in the UK have hit a record high of 1 million, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has warned employers dealing with staff shortages not to “sleepwalk” into a health and safety nightmare.

The leading professional body for occupational safety and health said that “worker shortages do not and should not mean worker neglect.”

The global professional body is concerned that the drive to maintain productivity levels in understaffed companies could lead to the protection of workers being compromised.

Checklist for worker safety

IOSH has produced a checklist for businesses coping with worker shortages to ensure they are managing both workers’ physical safety and their stress and anxiety.

The checklist includes:

  • Resource planning and ensuring tasks can still be completed safely
  • Policies and procedures and whether they remain viable in the wake of staff shortages
  • Risk assessments and considering whether these should be updated to account for the shortage of workers
  • Safe systems of work / safe operating procedures and whether these account for the shortage of workers
  • Cross training workers to carry out different roles and cover worker shortages
  • Ensuring all safety checks are still fulfilled and that there is limited risk to workers
  • Mental health and wellbeing in the workplace and how this is impacted by a shortage of workers
  • Keeping workers informed about staff shortages and included in discussions and plans

Invest in appropriate training

IOSH’s Ryan Exley said:

“Whether organisations are finding it difficult to recruit, or they’re being challenged financially and need to make cuts in expenditure, it’s vital for their business/organisation and their staff that they ensure those who work for them are kept safe.

“The last thing we want is to see any employer dealing with worker shortages ‘sleepwalking’ into some health and safety nightmare scenario, where ‘getting by’ with a reduced workforce then morphs into a ‘new normal’ that puts their people in long-term danger.

“Continuing to operate with fewer workers may maximise profits but could build up pressure to cut corners and compromise on safety, seriously damaging workers’ mental health in the meantime.”

Meanwhile, IOSH Head of Health and Safety, Ruth Wilkinson, said firms needed to continue to invest in health and safety and appropriate training despite any staffing issues.

She explained:

“There should be no compromise on health and safety, with the prevention of harm and protection of workers being paramount.”

She added that firms must maintain good risk management and continue to: “Provide the appropriate training, such as staff inductions, competency requirements and refreshers, making sure staff are aware of the health and safety arrangements and their responsibilities; good communication and awareness is key.

“It’s always important to ensure there’s a planned and risk-controlled approach to prevention, focused on safe people, safe systems, safe workplaces and safe equipment.”

Health and safety training and support

First Response Training (FRT) is one of the UK’s largest and leading national training providers.

They deliver a wide and diverse range of training for businesses and organisations across all industry sectors and throughout the UK. Their course range includes training in the fields of health and safety, first aid, fire safety, manual handling, mental health, food hygiene, specialist safety, health and social care and more.

Their health and safety training is mapped to UK standards and legislation and follows HSE guidelines. Based on a common sense, proportionate approach to workplace safety, training helps learners to understand the true benefits of creating a health and safe environment at work.

A trainer from FRT explains:

“We believe in creating safer working environments with people who care, and know that when workers feel safe, valued and protected, they are likely to be happier and more productive at work. Companies with a strong health and safety ethos can not only reduce workplace accidents and downtime, but also see better staff retention rates and increased employee satisfaction in the future.”

For more information on any of the training courses that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or e-mail info@firstresponsetraining.com.

Firm fined £1 million after man dies in explosion

A chemical firm has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and fined £1 million after a man died in an explosion at its site.

The HSE said they hoped the case would help “communicate important safety messages” to the industry after Briar Chemicals Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching the COMAH Regulations 2015.

The company, based in Norwich, appeared at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court after a “complex and highly technical” three-year investigation by the HSE revealed that they failed to take all necessary measures to prevent the fatal explosion.

In addition to their significant fine, Briar Chemicals Ltd were also ordered to pay prosecution costs of £10,967.20.

Health and safety failings

The court heard how, on 27th July 2018, maintenance contractor, Rob Cranston, was carrying out repair work on a mixing vessel during a planned period of shutdown maintenance.

It is believed that his welding torch or grinder accidentally ignited flammable Toluene vapour inside the vessel. This should not have been present when the maintenance work commenced.

Mr Cranston, aged 46, was killed in the blast. His son Owen, aged 22, was working alongside him at the time.

The subsequent investigation by Britain’s health and safety watchdog found that a quantity of Toluene residue had been left inside the vessel after shutdown cleaning took place at the beginning of June 2018. Two damaged valves situated above the vessel in the Toluene supply pipe were also found to be leaking.

The HSE learned that operatives had been instructed to transfer a large quantity of Toluene from one storage tank to another via this pipe, which allowed additional flammable liquid to leak into the vessel. It was supposed to be empty and clean.

‘Horrendous’ and ‘complex’ case

In a Victim Impact Statement read out in court, Mr Cranston’s widow, Claire said his loss had “been horrendous for both our sons, particularly Owen having to deal with actually being there at the time.”

She added: “Our lives changed forever that day. We will never forget him and are only left wondering what the future would have held for us all together. We were still young enough to have had years of happiness ahead. He will miss seeing our sons’ lives develop and grandchildren in years to come.

Meanwhile, HSE Inspector Frances Bailey, who led the investigation into the incident, said:

“This was a complex and highly technical investigation, due to the chemical hazards on site and the number of underlying issues which combined to cause the explosion. HSE hope that this case helps to communicate important safety messages to wider industry so that other fires and explosions are prevented in future.

“Any company handling or storing flammables should consider the potential risk of fire and explosion and ensure they have robust procedures in place to minimise and control risk at all times, including during planned maintenance work.”

Vital health and safety support and training

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading, national training provider.

They deliver over 7,000 courses each year in the fields of health and safety, first aid, fire safety, food hygiene, mental health, health and social care and other special focus topics.

Their diverse portfolio includes training awards in Handling Hazardous SubstancesHealth and Safety, Lone Working, Risk Assessment, Manual HandlingAccident and Incident Investigation and Managing and Supervising Safety, among many others.

FRT is also approved to deliver world-renowned IOSH-accredited and certificated training courses such as IOSH Working Safely, IOSH Supervising Safely and IOSH Managing Safely.

A trainer from FRT explains: “This is a truly tragic case which highlights exactly why it’s so vitally important that employers have a good understanding of health and safety law and that health and safety at work is well managed, with suitable risk assessments, control measures, policies and procedures in place.”

For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to info@firstresponsetraining.com.

HSE inspectors crack down on respiratory risks

Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will be targeting construction firms across Britain next month to check they are protecting workers from respiratory risks and occupational lung disease.

The month-long inspection initiative, starting on Monday 4th October 2021, will focus on the control measures that construction firms have in place to protect their workers from silica, asbestos and wood dust.

Improving construction worker health

The initiative forms part of HSE’s longer term health and work strategy to improve health within the construction industry.

The HSE will be inspecting construction sitesIt will be supported by their WorkRight campaign, which encourages builders to download free guidance and advice in order to increase knowledge and capability to protect workers’ health.

Britain’s health and safety watchdog is being supported by the Health in Construction Leadership Group (HCLG) and Tier 1 industry contractors to conduct more than 1,000 site visits throughout October.

Inspectors will assess the effectiveness of measures that firms have in place to control workers’ exposure to the respiratory risks from construction dust.

The findings from these visits and a survey will provide the HSE with a wide dataset to evaluate ongoing practices across industry. The insights will support the regulator’s strategic plan to broaden the range and depth of future regulatory health interventions.

Inspectors prepared to take action

Inspectors will be looking for evidence that employers and workers are aware of the risks, planning their work accordingly and using the right control measures.

The watchdog has also warned that, while inspectors will focus on health and, in particular, respiratory risks, during this inspection initiative, they will also take action to tackle any other areas of concern they identify, such as immediate safety risks.

Simple measures to save lives

The focused inspections on construction are driven by some very serious figures. More than 3,500 construction workers die each year after developing cancers related to their work.

There are also thousands more cases of ill-health and working days lost each year due to exposure to dust.

The Chief Inspector of Construction at the HSE, Sarah Jardine, said:

“Around 100 times as many workers die from diseases caused or made worse by their work than are actually killed in construction accidents.”

She added that there were simple measures that everyone can do to ensure they are protecting their health: “Be aware of the risks associated with activities you do every day, recognise the dangers of hazardous dust and consider how it can affect your health. We want businesses and their workers to think of the job from start to finish and avoid creating dust by working in different ways to keep dust down and wear the right protective equipment.”

Construction safety training and support

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading, national training provider.

They deliver a wide and diverse range of training courses in the fields of health and safety, first aid, fire safety, manual handling, food hygiene, specialist safety, mental health, health and social care and more.

They can offer courses in subjects such as Asbestos Awareness, Handling of Hazardous Substances and accredited options such as IOSH Working Safely and IOSH Managing Safely.

A trainer from FRT says:

“Occupational cancers devastate thousands of lives. It’s so important that employers protect themselves and their workers by following simple, common sense health and safety measures that keep them safe.”

For more information on any of the training courses that FRT can offer, please call them on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to info@firstresponsetraining.com.

IOSH shares workplace strategies to prevent suicide

As World Suicide Prevention Day was observed earlier this month, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) shared workplace strategies to support people’s mental health and prevent suicide.

The world’s largest occupational health and safety body said that the Covid-19 pandemic had negatively impacted the mental health and wellbeing of people across the world, “exacerbating what was already a less than ideal situation.”

Studies reveal Covid-19-related suicides

IOSH cited international studies that particularly indicate a significant increase in emergency workers attempting to take their own life.

The professional body said that data compiled by the Laura Hyde Foundation charity revealed that more than 220 nurses attempted suicide in 2020 across England and Wales.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), this is more than the total number of nurses who took their own life over the five years between 2013 and 2017.

IOSH also cited a separate study which used retrospective media reports to identify a total of 26 worldwide Covid-19-related suicides among healthcare professionals.

A third study in Cyprus also suggested that healthcare workers were experiencing post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression as a result of the pandemic.

OSH professionals to identify and help those at risk

IOSH believes that supporting and promoting positive mental health and wellbeing in the workplace should form part of the occupational safety and health (OSH) role. Almost 3 in 4 respondents to the 2021 IOSH member survey agreed with them.

Karen Michell, the Research Programme Lead for Occupational Health at the professional body said it is time for businesses to “raise awareness and upskill where needed,” so that OSH professionals are equipped to “identify those at risk, advocate for them in the workplace and refer them on for supportive help as required.”

She also outlined key preventative strategies that OSH professionals could help implement in the workplace. These include:

  • Changing the culture at work to breakdown the stigma attached to mental health issues and encourage mental health conversations in the workplace
  • Asking colleagues if they are okay
  • Introducing interventions such as increased awareness of suicide and suicidal ideation among workers, training line managers and employees on how to identify the signs and offering access to support services that can help individuals.
  • Identifying a workplace mental health champion, who can confidently be approached for support.
  • Ensuring understanding of high-risk groups, including construction workers, nurses, doctors, police and firefighters.
  • Integrating suicide prevention strategies into existing mental health strategies in the workplace.
  • Ensuring post-ideation intervention and follow up
  • Managing issues at work that could lead to suicide and ideation, such as stress and poor control over psychological stressors.
  • Training mental health first aiders at work

IOSH offers a number of relevant resources for managing mental health and wellbeing at work, including their guide Working well – guidance on promoting health and wellbeing at work.

The National Institute of Mental Health identifies the following warning signs that someone may be at risk of suicide:

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
  • Talking about feeling empty or hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast
  • Exhibiting extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
  • Making a plan or investigating ways to kill themselves, such as researching online
  • Talking about feeling great guilt or shame
  • Acting anxious or agitated

The charity Heads Up also has advice on what to do if you notice any of these warning signs:

  • Start a conversation with the person, asking them how they’re feeling or telling them you’re worried about them
  • Ask the person if they are thinking of suicide, to help you understand how they’re feeling
  • Ask if you can contact someone who may be able to help them, such as a trained colleague or a crisis line

Non-stigmatised conversations about mental health

IOSH says that it’s also important for companies and trained mental health champions to have a list of trusted services to which they can refer workers at risk. These could include:

IOSH recently urged employers to consider mental health and wellbeing as employees return to the workplace following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

After a survey suggested that 40% of workers feel less resilient now than they did before the pandemic, and that over half feel under pressure to mask mental health challenges as they return to the workplace, IOSH’s Head of Advice and Practice, Duncan Spencer advised:

“We advocate that open and non-stigmatised conversations are proactively arranged by line managers as part of a strong overall mental health and wellbeing strategy.”

Further mental health training and support for the workplace

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading, national training provider delivering a wide and diverse range of training courses.

They can provide training in the fields of health and safety, first aid, fire safety, food hygiene, safeguarding, mental health, health and social care and other specialist subjects.

Their specialist mental health training range includes Understanding Mental HealthMental Health Awareness in the WorkplaceManaging Stress in the WorkplaceAnxiety AwarenessSelf-Harm Awareness and Suicide Awareness.

They can also provide externally accredited trainers to deliver Mental Health First Aid England training courses, including Adult, Youth, Champion and Lite versions.

A trainer from FRT says:

“It is important that employers look at what they can do to promote and support positive mental health and wellbeing among their employees.

“People can be extremely scared to mention the word ‘suicide’ but often it is the culture of silence that poses the greatest risk to people’s safety and mental health. It’s important that we are proactive and training can really help people to feel more confident to offer support to those at risk when they need it the most.”

For more information about the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to info@firstresponsetraining.com.

NSPCC: Online child abuse crimes have risen by almost 80%

The NSPCC is calling for the upcoming Online Safety Bill to be strengthened to “prioritise children” after figures show that online abuse crimes have surged by 78% over the last 4 years.

The national children’s charity says that an analysis of police reports reveals that the number of children being sexually abused online has risen by over three quarters in recent years and that this “dramatic and hugely troubling growth” demonstrates the urgent need to better protect children online.

Data obtained via Freedom of Information Requests from police forces across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands shows:

  • 9,742 online child sexual offences were recorded by 41 police forces last year
  • Recorded crimes have increased from 5,458 during 2016-17 to 9,736 in 2020-21, according to data from 39 forces who were able to provide figures for both time periods
  • The data includes offences such as sexual assault, rape or sexual communication with a child where any element of the offence was committed online

Online Safety Bill contains ‘substantive weaknesses’

Now, the NSPCC has assessed the draft Online Safety Bill published by the government and has found “substantive weaknesses” in its plans to protect children from preventable abuse online.

They are encouraging supporters to write to the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and urge him to prioritise children and strengthen the Bill.

The NSPCC have defined six tests for the Online Safety Bill, along with a series of indicators for whether the new regulations are likely to be effective in protecting children from illegal harm online.

They say that the latest draft Bill meets just 9 of their 27 indicators and that a further 10 remain largely or completely unmet.

They are calling for the draft legislation to be strengthened in a number of key ways before being passed into law. These are:

  • It must tackle cross-platform risks. This includes implementing measures to stop grooming and abuse spreading between different apps and services, with companies working together to proactively share information.
  • It must prevent abuse at the earliest possible stage. This means treating behaviour that directly facilitates child abuse with the same severity as the illegal material it causes and tackling the ‘digital breadcrumbs’ that abusers leave on online platforms to signpost to child abuse images.
  • It must close gaps in the child safety duty. The Bill currently only covers platforms which have a ‘significant’ number of child users. This could mean that high-risk sites such as Telegram and OnlyFans could be excluded from the duty and may mean that harmful content is simply displaced to smaller sites, rather than being prevented.
  • It must hold senior managers accountable. The NSPCC suggests that a Named Persons Scheme should introduce personal liability for individuals at tech companies when they fail to uphold their duty of care. This could include criminal sanctions, fines, censure and disbarment.
  • It must introduce a dedicated user advocate for children. This could be funded by the industry levy and would reflect standard legislation in other sectors.

‘Once-in-a-generation’ chance to protect children online

The Chief Executive of the NSPCC, Sir Peter Wanless, says that children have a right to “explore the online world safely,” but that a lack of regulation has led to “a dramatic and hugely troubling growth in the scale of online abuse.”

He explained:

“The Government has a once-in-a-generation chance to deliver a robust but proportionate regulatory regime that can truly protect children from horrendous online harms.

“But, as it stands, there are substantive weaknesses in its plans, which cannot be overlooked. The draft Bill fails to prevent inherently avoidable abuse or reflect the magnitude and complexity of online risks to children.

“The Bill is at a crucial point in pre-legislative scrutiny, and now is the time for the Government to be ambitious to protect children and families from preventable abuse.”

The NSPCC provides online safety advice and guidance on its website.

Safeguarding children

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading national training provider delivering courses in subjects such as health and safety, first aid, fire safety, manual handling, food hygiene, mental health, health and social care, safeguarding and more.

They work with a large number of early years, schools and childcare providers, as well as with the top colleges like collegejaguar.com and children’s services. Their courses include Safeguarding Children.

A trainer from FRT says:

“Safeguarding children means protecting them off and online. It’s so important that we are mindful of the harms they could be exposed to online and that there are mechanisms in place to protect them, and to offer them help and support when they need it most.”

For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to info@firstresponsetraining.com.