HMRC – H7: Mental Health guidance and Health Advocate Service for employees

HMRC is committed to supporting the `Time to Change’ initiative and reducing discrimination and stigma around mental health issues in the workplace. Building manager capability and confidence in this area, supporting staff and providing pathways to further help is also a priority for us. Mental health/stress is the biggest single reason for ill-health and absence in HMRC, resulting in increasing occupational health referrals and requests from managers for advice on managing and supporting jobholders with a mental health condition.

We are committed to improving the health and wellbeing of our people. That is set out in the Department’s Mental Health Strategy which we published in 2014. The strategy targets five areas:

  • Improving people’s understanding of mental health issues and the impact in the workplace,
  • Taking steps to reduce the stigma associated with mental health and foster a culture where people can talk openly and seek support,
  • Providing people with the tools and the support needed to improve their mental health,
  • Building manager capability and confidence to effectively manage mental health issues in the workplace and support their staff,
  • Tackling work related stress.

To support the strategy and building on the success of an earlier pilot, HMRC developed a new role of Mental Health Advocate (MHA) based on learning from the pilot and feedback from people experiencing mental health problems and their managers. We worked with our Employee Assistance provider to develop and deliver training for 70 staff selected for the advocate role from a large number of volunteers keen to raise the profile of mental health. We have set up networking and buddying arrangements to support the advocates and to share experience and good practice. Anyone can contact a trained advocate whether to discuss a mental health condition, for advice on the range of internal and external support available or if they’re going through a particularly stressful time. The advocates can help by listening, encouraging the individual to take positive steps towards accessing professional help and signposting to the appropriate services (including a pathway to our EAP), resources and support available within and outside the Department.

We launched the MHA service on 9 December together with new mental health guidance and the new Civil Service Learning mental health awareness e-learning product. Our HR guidance aims to promote a positive environment on mental health issues and to encourage people to seek confidential help as well as providing practical information, both for individuals and managers supporting someone in their team.

The e-learning has been developed to help increase people’s understanding of the issues faced by staff living with mental ill health, to equip them with the knowledge and confidence to know their remit and where they can seek professional help and acquire practical techniques to better support their staff/colleagues.

Lin Homer our Chief Executive and Civil Service Disability Champion said “It’s critical that everyone understands more about Mental Health issues and the support available (and) the new advocate role is a really positive approach”.

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