The group executive committee (GEC) has been in regular discussions with DWP regarding the extremely sensitive issue of Mental Health First Aid.
DWP has accepted and addressed some serious concerns – for example the six hours training for Mental Health First Aiders was woefully inadequate and on GEC insistence was replaced by the now mandatory two day Mental Health First Aid England/Scotland/Wales training.
The remaining issues to be urgently addressed were the lack of agreed policy and guidance, and the circulation of an unacceptable Terms of Reference (ToR)/contract.
DWP had uploaded guidance to the intranet in an attempt to address some concerns - this did not go far enough and the GEC submitted amendments. There had been agreement that the ToR was not fit purpose, but no withdrawal.
Following further consultation the GEC can confirm that DWP have now fully withdrawn the ToR/contract and the intranet guidance for MHFA has been amended. The MHFA programme remains a work in progress but PCS has now ensured:
- The ToR which saw members signing away their rights has been withdrawn
- DWP have committed in writing to protecting the MHFA, and staff using the service
- Intranet guidance is available for those undertaking the role/using the service
No contract to sign, the MHFA will now receive no more than a welcome letter from DG Debbie Alder, lead for the MHFA programme. As per the GEC’s further requests, and in agreement with DWP, there is now:
- a named lead to supervise the MHFA community
- refresher training after two years volunteering
- training for team leaders that have responsibility for an MHFA
With GEC monitoring the MHFA programme is significantly improved from where we were a year ago, that said we will not be taking our eye off the ball. Should any MHFA volunteer be asked to sign any document, or should there be anything reps believe untoward, please raise with Group Office immediately.