Last year, the Construction Industry Helpline supported over 1,500 construction families in crisis and over 400 families were granted £705,000* of emergency financial help.
Of the 1,500 calls into the helpline, 1,100 of these were given advice and support on issues ranging from stress and depression to legal, debt management and taxation advice. The 24/7 confidential helpline is funded by the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity and provides access to a portfolio of support services for all construction workers and their families in the UK and Ireland. The charity receives no public funding and relies on the generosity of those within the industry to ‘look after its own’.
On average, the helpline receives around 120 calls each month from applicants or someone representing the applicant. The helpline provides a range of services that supports people returning to work or, if they can no longer carry on with their existing role, signpost them to re-training so they can remain within the construction industry. The helpline also provides advice and support to help people adjust to their individual circumstances and become financially independent.
Working in construction can be extremely rewarding, but it comes as no surprise that it’s also one of the most stressful and dangerous industries to work in. Julie Buckingham, Welfare Manager for the charity said: “The helpline is constantly evolving and, since its launch, our services have been developed to ensure that we meet the needs of those calling the helpline. For some time now we have recognised that to really help, we need to do more than just provide financial assistance. All our call handlers are trained in mental health first aid and will ask a series of questions concerning the applicant’s specific situation. These follow the seven areas of need to determine whether the applicant would benefit from additional advice and support from a mental health expert, so that we can signpost them to the relevant service for additional support.”
Julie added: “In a recent questionnaire to current and recent beneficiaries, over 80 per cent of respondents said that they experienced mental health issues following their accident or illness. In response to those needs, the helpline now provides access to counselling services to help people talk through their issues. It’s important to stress the confidentiality of the helpline, for many, this may be the first time they have spoken to someone and we realise that taking that first step isn’t always easy.”
In addition to the counselling services, the charity has also introduced a debt advice service to support applicants who had got themselves in to debt because of their accident or illness. We also introduced access to legal advice for those requiring professional advice on a variety of legal matters.
Last year and with the crucial support of the Considerate Constructors Scheme, the charity launched a new range of packs to promote the helpline’s services. Each pack contains wallet sized helpline cards for distribution to the workforce and A2 posters to promote the helpline on site.
Bill Hill, Lighthouse Club Charity CEO said: “We have now distributed over 100,000 cards but our biggest challenge is to get them out to every one of our 2.1 million construction workers. Many larger employers offer employee assistance programmes but over 53% of our construction workforce are self-employed, so we need to ensure that we reach those who have nowhere else to turn.”
There is little doubt that mental health in construction is a significant issue and the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity has put in measures in place to address those support needs. It is going to need a massive cultural shift within the industry to deal with it, requiring managers and workers alike to recognise that there is an issue and for workers not to be afraid of putting their hands up and asking for help.
To access the helpline’s team of experts, call the Construction Industry Helpline on 0345 605 1956 or click here
*Forecast figures up to 31st December 2017