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The cost of living crisis isn’t just putting a strain on household wallets, it’s having a serious impact on people’s wellbeing and mental health and in some instances resulting in self-harm.

Research published by Mind in October 2023 revealed that the impact cost of living crisis has led to 6% of the UK population to consider ending their lives because of it. One in five people have reported worsening depression and people receiving Universal Credit are more than three times more likely to consider suicide because of the cost of living crisis. Many of our colleagues who are talking to customers face-to-face every day were expressing and reporting more concerns about the mental health of their customers, so we decided we needed to do something to help colleagues support those customers.

HR business partner Tuesday Wilmott said: “We already had an online suicide awareness course available to colleagues, so we looked into what else we could offer. We felt the most comprehensive package for colleagues was for suicide first aid training and agreed to offer the opportunity to take part to two cohorts of customers-facing teams. This would enable us to upskill colleagues who had expressed a direct interest in the subject.”

We appointed Grassroots Suicide Prevention, a nationwide organisation which empowers people to save lives through education to run two sessions with our colleagues. The first session was given to colleagues who meet customers in their homes every day but do not have an ongoing relationship with that customers, such as engineers from our Service Delivery team. The course gave learners the skills needed to identify someone who may be thinking about suicide through tutor-led role-play, group work and audio-visual presentations.

The second cohort was made up of colleagues who do hold the main relationship with the customer and was made up primarily of some of our neighbourhood coaches. This course provided colleagues with an interactive and emotionally engaging learning experience that encouraged them to empathise with a person having thoughts of suicide. And by using the learning from the course the hope is that colleagues can help individuals who are having thoughts of suicide to stay safe from those thoughts and stay safe and well.

Tuesday added: “This training has given colleagues the skills and confidence to spot signs when a customer may be in distress or struggling with their mental health and to signpost them to the most appropriate support. We’ve asked everyone who attended to share the knowledge and experience they gained from these sessions with their colleagues so that we can help support as many customers as possible who may be struggling with their mental health.”

Kay Ross, income management advisor said: “I’ve previously had contact with a customer who was talking about killing herself during a phone call and subsequent visit. While I was visiting the customer I managed to speak to her neighbourhood coach, who was very supportive and gave me advise, including asking the customer whether they had a plan. I felt the need to stay with her for some time and talk to her and then had to decide whether I felt comfortable leaving her or whether I needed to contact a support service. I discussed her situation with colleagues from other teams and checked in with her afterwards to make sure she was ok.

“When people talk about not wanting to go on you have to treat it seriously and have to use your knowledge and experience to support them, which is why training like this course is so important. It allowed me to revisit that scenario and assess my actions which reassured me that the steps I took were the right ones and that I would know what to do if faced with a similar situation in the future. The thing that made a difference to me was when the trainer was talking about people who self-harm. Sometimes these people can be seen as timewasters but actually they are a far greater risk of suicide than those that don’t self-harm. I thought it was a great course with a really engaging trainer that worked well in conjunction with our safeguarding training.”

Ben Lea, M&E manager added: “It was truly insightful and provided valuable insights into approaching individuals in specific ways, recognizing certain behavioural patterns, and identifying traits. As a leader, this knowledge equips me with the tools to be more attentive and aware, enabling me to better support and look out for others' well-being. It's a subtle reminder of the importance of checking in on people regularly.”

The training was funded through part of the savings from our portfolio of Sustainability Linked Loans with our investors. The two loans are linked to us improving the energy efficiency of our existing homes and reducing our gender pay gap.

Director of treasury Imran Mubeen said: “We believe that sustainability linked loans (SLLs) can be a catalyst for positive change both within our business and the wider community. Our six SLLs are linked to eight sustainability objectives in our 2023 – 2027 Bromford Strategy, which provide them with greater prominence as we continue our journey to becoming a more sustainable organisation. By utilising the savings from these loans we can drive meaningful change that supports our customer and colleagues by providing initiatives such as these suicide awareness training sessions.”


Writing about all things housing related for more than 10 years.

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