Barnardo’s and workplace wellbeing

Many adult groups come to us to improve their team working skills. Since covid, the focus of this type of work has shifted to staff wellbeing, with employees not only out of practice at face-to-face contact, but perhaps suffering a drop in confidence and positivity.

When the Lanarkshire team from Barnardos visited at the end of 2022, many workplaces had had more than two years of radical change, such as enforced working from home and new other new working patterns. Barnardos visited us in two groups, a week apart, for a day of activities designed to help them to feel good about themselves.

Workplace wellbeing is gaining increasing importance, with research by the mental health charity Mind reporting that 60 per cent of staff think action by employers to support wellbeing engages and motivates them. 

If youth workers don’t feel positive, motivated and nurtured, it could have an effect when they are trying to achieve exactly those improvements for children whose families are struggling. The Barnardos teams have two services: the Axis programme supports children and young people aged 11-21, and up to age 26 if care-experienced or who are affected by their own or someone close’s drug and alcohol problems. The other service is school and community based, working with the pupil equity funded referrals for financially or socially vulnerable families.

The teams deliver activities to build individuals’ self-esteem, help them to problem solve, and then to see that they can apply this to life. The first step is to create a connection with those people. As children’s services manager Karen puts it: “We have to be a jack of all trades and master of building relationships. If there’s no relationship you won’t get the work done.”

It’s important that a foundation of fun is laid before attempting to break down the unhappiness caused by underlying family difficulties.  Finding something the individual enjoys doing is process that can begin in an office, school, or outside. The Axis programme began in 2011, originally funded by the North Lanarkshire Alcohol and drug partnership.

The pupil equity funded service, which has been running for slightly less time, is directly connected with schools and operates in North and South Lanarkshire. It uses programmes like LIAM, 5 to Thrive and the Solihull approach.

The service initially began with three workers as a test for change across the locality.  In 2019 the service had a staff team of eight. Now, due to increased demand, the service supports 38 schools across Lanarkshire and hosts a staff team of 18. During covid, they remained frontline. “Child protection doesn’t stop during a pandemic,” says Karen, explaining that support continued whether on a family’s doorstep or in a park, although offices closed.

Barnardos gained funding to be able to continue to help families whose school, nursery and community settings closed. Parents lost jobs, worsening the pressure. Kids who were just under the radar at school suddenly were added to caseloads because their usual support system had shut down. Referrals shot up, and since schools have returned, it hasn’t eased.  

One of the activities the Barnardos teams took part in at Wiston Lodge involved team games like huddling together within coloured hoops. It’s designed to challenge comfort zones and strengthen relationships, through the fun of doing something you may not normally do at work.

As well as imparting a better ethic to get the job done, staff wellbeing days have an important other function. They can make the individual identify something that might be holding them back, personally or professionally. Barnardos’ own staff may be skilled at getting young people to reflect and open up, and therefore it’s not too hard to do the same for themselves. But most employees can benefit from taking time to think about what they are trying to achieve, and how it may be affected by how cared for they feel at work. 

*Enquire with us about bringing your team for a bespoke Wiston Workplace Wellbeing programme day.