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We are proud to announce that our proposal for a new research initiative designed to discover more about the mental health struggles of self-employed tradespeople and those working for smaller businesses in the construction industry has received the £25,000 Occupational Health Research Award for 2021.

Judges from B&CE’s Charitable Trust2 were impressed by our joint submission with the Institute for Employment Studies (IES)4, which proposes a four-step plan to learn more about the pressures on the mental health of the estimated one million ‘hard to reach’ people either working for themselves or for small and micro businesses within the construction and manual trades sector. The proposal follows concerns that the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic will only exacerbate the pressures on those working within the industry, with risk of suicide within this sector already being higher than the national average.

The award will help Mates In Mind and IES investigate the extent of the problem within the targeted section of the industry, develop a questionnaire designed to gauge the levels of poor mental health, embark upon a qualitive research programme with selected workers and conclude with the publication of a report. The report will summarise both the extent of the issue within the target group and how it can be tackled. The report, once published, will be made available to the wider industry and it is also hoped that at least one support tool will be developed as a result.

James Rudoni, Managing Director of Mates in Mind, said:

It’s incredibly important for us to receive this award, our programme is built on an evidence-based approach and this will enable us to undertake research that will help expand support across the whole of the construction sector. During our four years of existence, we have touched the lives of thousands of workers but we have still got a long way to go and there are millions working in the sector.

“We can’t yet say what issues the self-employed face as we don’t know a lot about them because there is little existing research and they are hard to reach. They are time poor, on a low income and they don’t have access to the support infrastructure that those working for larger organisations have.”

Nicola Sinclair, from B&CE’s Charitable Trust, said:

We’re absolutely thrilled that Mates in Mind and the IES have received the 2021 Occupational Health Research Award. The judges were highly impressed by the submission which has both identified a potential issue and outlined how they propose to tackle it. Thanks partly to the work that Mates in Mind has already done, great progress has been made in tackling the mental health problem within construction, yet the self-employed, along with those working for smaller and micro businesses have inadvertently been forgotten. This excellent scheme will go a long way to ensuring that everybody who works within this huge sector can access help in future if they need it.”

Stephen Bevan, head of HR research development at IES, said:

This will help us fill in an evidence gap, as we have made lots of educated guesses about what the issues are and the truth is that we don’t know. If you want to move the dial and want Government to take you seriously then you need to give them evidence. This is the first step in getting them to take this seriously.

A huge thanks to the Health and Construction leadership group, who supported this proposal and will be working alongside us on the project.

Those wanting to participate in the research, which is due to start in the coming months, can contact the team at: [email protected]

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