Improving wellbeing by learning

Union learning projects have an excellent track record when it comes to promoting health and wellbeing in the workplace – as these ULF projects demonstrate.

Problem gambling tackled
Image © Mikkelwilliam/Getty Images

Several Union Learning Fund (ULF) projects showcased their work supporting health and wellbeing at a TUC North West conference at The Liner Hotel in Liverpool in January.

Around 80 participants from a wide range of unions attended the event, which was designed to spotlight some of the most effective union work in support of members experiencing anxiety or depression, struggling with stress or living with the after-effects of trauma.

In the fire and rescue service, where firefighters can experience enormous trauma in the line of duty, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) Union Learning Fund (ULF) project has been helping people rethink the way they tackle mental health issues, explained Project Manager Mark Dunne.

Mark said:

For the last nine years, we’ve been delivering a Level 2 mental health awareness course. It’s been our most popular by far in the last six years: you’re probably looking at in excess of 2,000 fire and rescue service personnel doing this course.”

ASLEF ULF Project Manager Shirley Handsley explained how the union has also been helping change attitudes to mental health on the railway network through its ULF project.

Shirley said:

The ULF project has been heavily involved in creating the train driver apprenticeship standard, and within that we’ve enshrined the health and wellbeing of the train driver and we’ve enshrined trauma support as well, because unfortunately trauma is an occupational hazard.”

Unite has recently launched a problem gambling workplace charter (with the help of its ULF project) and is promoting courses to help reps and members understand the issues, explained North West Regional Learning Manager Jane Broome and Construction ULF Project Manager Keith Lewis.

After organising a conference on problem gambling in 2016 and a fringe meeting at TUC Congress the year after, Unite launched its problem gambling charter last September.

Already several employers have signed up to its seven-step strategy to help people overcome their addiction issues.

Michael Bennett, director of player welfare at the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), revealed how more and more players are now running into problems with gambling.

Michael said:

Gambling is the biggest issue in football right now: players present with depression, anxiety and stress, which is a symptom of something – and when you find out what the root issue is, it is usually gambling.”

But whether they are battling addiction or dealing with other mental health issues, more and more players are now accessing the support services offered by the PFA, he reported.

Last year, more than 650 PFA members organised one-to-one sessions with the union’s national network of counsellors; while 800-plus people phoned the union’s 24-hour helpline. 

This story first appeared in the Spring 2020 Learning Rep e-Magazine – download your copy free today.