Camden Borough Council is strengthening the mental health support it provides to more than 4,000 staff members by partnering with Able Futures, which delivers the government-funded Access to Work mental health support service.
The council is responsible for public services to 230,000 residents in Greater London, including many of its own staff. It is committed to making Camden a place where everyone has a chance to succeed; a place for everyone, where everyone has a voice.
“Camden Council strives to be an inclusive organisation where everyone can be their best selves,” says Director of People and Inclusion, Jo Brown. “An important part of this is changing how we think and act about mental health across the organisation and making sure that anyone facing these problems feels supported. Together with Able Futures we can ensure that staff experiencing mental health issues get the help they need.”
Able Futures is a nationwide partnership delivering the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions and it is led Ingeus UK. It offers fast, free access to qualified mental health professionals for working members of the public. The service is confidential and flexible and is available over the phone, through email or face-to-face meetings. It also gives employers free advice and support on helping staff cope with mental health issues and improving mental wellbeing at work.
Able Futures’ Business Account Manager, Luke Iacoviello contacted Camden Council in the summer of 2019; the service has since rolled out to all council employees, with toolkits also provided to 60 local authority schools in the area.
“Together with Able Futures we can ensure that staff experiencing mental health issues get the help they need.” Jo Brown, Director of People and Inclusion
Following a presentation from Luke, Camden’s management team unanimously agreed to sign up to Able Futures. Briefings were delivered to staff, with council leaders sharing their own experiences of mental wellbeing. All staff were emailed advising the importance of good mental health and the Able Futures service is now signposted at staff inductions and managers’ workshops.
“As a council we are fully transparent with our budgets and having personalised, specialist support available to our entire workforce at no cost is amazing.” Nina Job, Public Health Strategist, Camden and Islington Public Health
Together with the council’s Employee Assistance Programme, Able Futures information is available on the ‘We Make Camden’ staff intranet wellbeing page and Luke has supported council-run events for World Mental Health Day, Time to Talk day, Mental Health Awareness Week, World Suicide Prevention Day and National Stress Awareness Day.
“We took special measures to ensure everyone was included, which isn’t straightforward with our staff’s huge range of roles and locations,” says Health and Safety Manager, Darren Williams, who helped champion the roll out of the Able Futures service to council colleagues.
“Luke willingly gave his time to come with me to speak directly to those harder to reach colleagues, those who don't have visibility of the intranet or company email addresses, in order to inform them too of the support available. It’s particularly important to have those face to face discussions with staff who often work alone or feel that there’s still a social stigma in talking about your mental health.”
Keen to capitalise on its Able Futures partnership, the council also recently signed the Time to Change Employer Pledge, demonstrating its commitment to thinking and acting positively about mental health. It has set up an informal carers network for anyone undertaking carer duties away from work and is looking to set up similar networks for its mental health champions.
The council is also looking to change its absence data reporting to identify and provide interventions more quickly for colleagues needing mental health support.
Nina Job, Public Health Strategist for Camden and Islington Public Health said: “We want to make sure people are able to access help as soon as they need it and are also encouraging them to share details of Able Futures with working family members, friends and colleagues outside of the council.
“As a council we are fully transparent with our budgets and having personalised, specialist support available to our entire workforce at no cost is amazing. I would encourage any employer to access this government-funded service to give their staff an extra lifeline in times of need.”