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Eating and exercise: how Humberside turned around welfare

Humberside Police has gone from inadequate to Oscar Kilo award winner in three years. Police Oracle interviews the force's Head of People Services Sarah Wilson and finds out how simple things such as bringing back staff gyms has helped
Published - 15/07/2020 By - Chris Smith

How’s lockdown going?

We’re finding some health and wellbeing challenges with our teams working agile in that they are not stopping. They are getting literally heads down with their laptops. And if you have children, it’s tough.

We’ve moved as an organisation to quite a lot of agile working but this has focused our approach the more it’s gone on. For a while policing has been quite nervous about people working from home. 

Why has Humberside changed its approach to wellbeing?

We’ve been on quite an amazing journey over the last three years. We were the first organisation to be rated inadequate by HM Inspectorate in 2015. We’ve had a full new chief officer team come in. Policing is so driven in its culture by the Chief Constable and the senior team.

What was the result?

Last year, we had the most improved morale of any force in the country.

How was that achieved?

Having a crystal-clear vision of the leader, Chief Constable Lee Freeman, and including people in the conversation. We did a massive health and wellbeing review – we talked to almost 1,000 members of staff to ask them what the force was like to work for. Our staff survey at the beginning was really important.

What was the biggest piece of learning from that?

Investing in our people and communicating – being more thoughtful about what was communicated and when. Staff voice forums and think tanks were used as monthly groups and we used our existing networks, like the Black Police Association, together under an umbrella internally called The Forum.

Police Care funding of £140,000 was also a big help. We were able to appoint a wellbeing coordinator, an adviser and a wellbeing manager – suddenly we have a team with three staff. We also had a health and wellbeing board chaired by the Chief Constable.

What were the key changes?

Creating a strategy and delivery plan led by the corporate board but passed down to local commanders. What we were really conscious of was that just keeping the conversations going wasn’t enough. Some of the issues raised locally were resolved locally. The corporate board  shared best practice.

Can you give us an example of one of the outcomes?

Gyms were brought back. It was mostly because of austerity that they’d gone. And investment in psychological support. We employed a senior psychotherapist who fixes some of our most broken people who see things that are not normal. Through TRiM this flows from debrief to rehabilitation. The people helped are often better police officers when they come back as a result.

What was the main problem?

Humberside was quite insular for a while. We’ve since worked with a range of external organisations such as Police Mutual and Copper Pot. We worked on our health and wellbeing intranet to signpost what’s available. People didn’t really know where to go for help or know what was already available.

We had the Oscar Kilo vans here for two weeks and we organised a force wellbeing conference. We also reviewed our catering offer. That was really important at some of our large stations where you’ve got a lot of people. They’re really busy so we can help them make healthy decisions about diet. Don’t get me wrong, it does always rest on funding –catering rests on a knife edge regarding viability but we thought it was really important.

Does that risk a return of the ‘canteen culture’ when you’re trying to change and organisation?

The canteen culture is something of the past. We’re much more mature about our organisation culture and sub-culture.

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