Council’s commitment to staff wellbeing earns it a top award

Published Monday, 1st April 2019

Hartlepool Borough Council has reached one of the highest levels of a regional award scheme for employers who are committed to improving the health and wellbeing of their staff.

The Council received the ‘Maintaining Excellence’ accolade in the North East Better Health At Work Awards (BHAWA), which were presented in a special ceremony in Middlesbrough Town Hall.

Better Health At Work Award

Gemma Ptak (holding the certificate) and colleagues at the award presentation

In addition, a Special Recognition Award went to Alison Reeves, the Council’s Public Health Planning and Commissioning Officer, for the work she has done to help other Hartlepool organisations achieve BHAWA status.   

The BHAWA scheme is supported by 11 local authorities and is co-ordinated by the Northern TUC. There are now over 350 firms and organisations signed up to the initiative, covering nearly 200,000 workers in the North-East alone and making it one of the largest workplace health programmes in England.

Employers are assessed and the award levels range from Bronze, Silver and Gold up to Maintaining Excellence and then the very highest level - Ambassador.

To reach Maintaining Excellence, the Council demonstrated wide-ranging achievements.

Any organisation taking part in the scheme must have at least two formally-trained Health Advocates to help deliver health and wellbeing activities – the Council has trained six.

The Council runs an extensive range of health campaigns and initiatives for staff. Some past examples include:

* Do Something Good For You – Based around National Obesity Awareness Week, this encouraged staff to make a pledge to improve their health and wellbeing. They were offered free Tanita Scale readings to provide expert feedback on their body composition and a wide range of free taster sessions were run, ranging from squash and metafit to aqua zumba and pilates.

* Dementia Awareness Week – A varied programme of activities raised awareness of dementia, the support available to families and carers and the benefits of exercise helping to prevent the condition. Dementia Friends sessions – to train staff in supporting people with dementia – have since been introduced as part of the Council’s workforce development programme and have proved very popular with staff.

* Get Fit For Free – Free taster sessions encouraged staff to try out a wide range of activities including box-fit, circuits, aerobics, cycle fit and swimming.

* Take The Time To Talk, Take The Time To Listen – A variety of drop-in sessions were held around World Mental Health Day, including yoga, back care, mindfulness, tai chi, a reading group, organised walks and a choir session and many of those have continued on a regular basis since then.   

Among the many other initiatives which the Council has promoted are Dry January, smoking cessation, Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Breast Cancer Month and stroke awareness.

It has also provided advice and support to a number of other Hartlepool employers to help them reach their own milestones in the BHAWA.

Gemma Ptak, the Council’s Assistant Director (Preventative and Community-Based Services), said: “We are delighted to achieve ‘Maintaining Excellence’ status. The Council’s employees are its greatest asset and we are absolutely committed to helping them to enjoy healthy, happy and contented lives.”

Claire McLaren, the Council’s Assistant Director – Corporate Services, said: “We are very proud of our many initiatives to support and improve the wellbeing of our employees both physically and mentally – an approach which brings the additional important benefit of helping to reduce sickness levels at work.”

Pat Riordan, the Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “We will not rest on our laurels – employee health and wellbeing is at the very heart of the Council’s relationship with its staff and we are now working towards further achievements and gaining Ambassador status in the BHAWA.”

Beth Farhat, Northern TUC Regional Secretary, said: “A decade of creating good work and a healthier region is a real achievement and we should be extremely proud that the North-East has led the way with a partnership approach and developed a real flagship programme to be proud of.”