Social care mental health and wellbeing champions

At its core, the role of a wellbeing champion is to support the mental health and wellbeing of their colleagues. Within this, there is clear scope to tailor the role of wellbeing champions to the needs of the organisation and its workforce.

Why is mental health and wellbeing important for the social care workforce?

The health and wellbeing of the social care workforce are all important factors in ensuring that people with care and support needs and their families receive good quality care and are supported and enabled to live as independently as possible.

We know that stress and burn-out are tangible issues for adult social care. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on an already strained workforce and issues around the health and wellbeing of the workforce have become ever more prevalent. The number of support options for the workforce increased during the pandemic and it is time to double-down on this to embed wellbeing across the sector.

What is a wellbeing champion and what do they do?

  • At its core, the role of a wellbeing champion is to support the mental health and wellbeing of their colleagues. Within this, there is clear scope to tailor the role of wellbeing champions to the needs of the organisation and its workforce. Everywhere and everyone will have different needs and - as is the case for the diverse range councils and providers across the country - what works for one will not necessarily work in another. This guide is based on cross-sectoral examples of wellbeing champions to provide options that may work for various organisations.
  • While the role of wellbeing champions will indeed vary, they are likely to fulfil the following functions:
    • A visible individual or group within a council or provider organisation who proactively supports the wellbeing of social care colleagues
    • Spread the word of the importance of mental health and wellbeing in keeping colleagues healthy and happy
    • Retain an understanding of some of the key wellbeing issues for their colleagues
    • At the frontline level, promote, identify and signpost to local and national mental health and wellbeing support such as the NHS Hub, mental health charities and council support.

Who can be a Wellbeing Champion?

  • Anyone working for the council or a provider organisation with a passion for mental health and wellbeing
  • Where possible, they should be diverse both demographically and across roles and seniority

Spotlight on councils: practice case studies

  • Devon County Council has Adult Social Care Wellbeing Supporters with an aim to have a supporter in most teams, with 30 joining the network in 2021. They actively promote inclusivity in developing conversations and looking out for staff who are lonely or isolated through get-togethers and other activities, so colleagues do not feel left out. They act as a conduit for information, posting fun things on chats and have coffee breaks, conversations and check-in with colleagues. They provide staff with information on options, resources and supportive services, disseminating all the resources that the council – and beyond – provide on wellbeing. Wellbeing Supporters lead by example, and live and breathe the positive wellbeing commitments, such as putting their wellbeing ahead of other commitments and motivate others to do the same as well as sharing their own personal experiences and understanding the needs of colleagues as appropriate as appropriate. In order to ensure that wellbeing supporters are empowered to lead wellbeing conversations and to not unduly burden them, the council does not mandate any specific functions for wellbeing supporters. However, to support Wellbeing Supporters in their role, Devon County Council provide an in-depth guide to what a Wellbeing Supporter is and does and where to find resource. The council encourages Wellbeing Supporters to lead by example and look after themselves with full managerial support. The council puts on two lots of sessions every four weeks for 30 minutes. This is an informal catch up to share, develop and learn. Wellbeing Supporters are supported with a Wellbeing Supporters Teams Channel, a Health and Wellbeing intranet page, an adult social care wellbeing page, bite sized training sessions, and by a Wellbeing Coordinator, a formal full-time role in the council. Devon CC has also bid for the NHS training for its wellbeing supporters through the NHS Health and Wellbeing bid. 
  • Central Bedfordshire Council has transformed its wellbeing support offer in relation to wellbeing champions. Originally focused on the social care workforce, it now has wellbeing champions embedded across the council that understand the wellbeing issues facing the workforce and that work proactively to spread the word of the importance of mental health and wellbeing. It has built up strong partnerships with mental health charities such as Mind that has helped support wellbeing champions through training, sessions and webinars. The council also distributes flyers and similar resources to support its wellbeing champions. Contact Leire Agirre. Central Bedfordshire Council has also supported 16 social care providers through piloting wellbeing champion support sessions to help build the skills of wellbeing champions in social care providers. This has also enabled an external network for providers and wellbeing champions to work together. The indirect workforce is also able to access much of the training for wellbeing champions that the council workforce can access. 
  • Hertfordshire County Council has established an Adult Care Services Wellbeing Champion programme to play a central role in its Wellbeing Plan for Adult Care Services in response to the mental health and wellbeing impacts of the pandemic. Adult Care Services Workplace Health Champions (WPHC) are part of a wider network in the council and are taken up by staff within teams with their manager’s support. They support formal training interventions, promote wellbeing and wellbeing activities, share information and resources, and initiate activities within their team and wider area. They also identify areas where support is needed in their teams and guide colleagues to appropriate support. WPHC have also developed proactive support tools; for example, they have supported the development of a Reading for Wellness Group, a forum for staff to engage and network to discuss a podcast or book. WPHC are currently Hertfordshire County Council employees who volunteer and devote half a day per month to the role. This requires line manager approval to support WPHC carry out their training and half a day per month as part of their normal work to ensure it aligns with business needs. 
  • The NHS has established Health and Wellbeing Champions to ‘promote, identify and signpost their colleagues to local and national health and wellbeing support offers.’ Champions are those interested in health and wellbeing from all roles and demographics. NHS England and NHS Improvement offers monthly development programme that acts as a network for Champions and provides themed online sessions.