Emma McKay: CIOB Assist - for when construction professionals need a helping hand

Emma McKay: CIOB Assist - for when construction professionals need a helping hand

For the monthly SCN column from the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), Emma McKay shares information about the organisation’s CIOB Assist programme.

Every year hundreds of people from across the construction industry, as in all walks of life, find themselves facing unexpected challenges. It can be anyone from early career starters to retirees, with problems as diverse as health issues to financial concerns. For members of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) help is at hand through the organisation’s CIOB Assist programme.

Formerly the CIOB benevolent fund, and rebranded to CIOB Assist in 2021, the programme provided support for almost 500 CIOB members across the globe in 2022, an increase of around 60% from the previous year. Twenty-one of the enquiries received were from members in Scotland and fell under the categories of ill health, unemployment, membership fees and mental health.

The support available includes financial help with work and personal situations including debt advice, managing finances while not working or managing the costs of training and personal development, and in total more than £150,000 in grants was given out by the Assist programme in 2022. The service is also able to help with advice on employment issues such as employee rights.

In many cases, financial worries lead to mental health and wellbeing concerns, and working alongside Anxiety UK, who operate globally, CIOB Assist can help with confidential, tailored support including cognitive behavioural therapy, counselling and clinical hypnotherapy for those struggling with anxiety, stress or depression for example. The support offered also extends to the dependent families of CIOB members.

CIOB Assist received £50,291 in donations last year compared to £55,820 in 2021 and relies on income from one off and regular donations as well as from fundraising events, collections and legacy gifts.

Sharon Barrie has been a CIOB member for more than 30 years. She is a service lead for design and construction at Highland Council and is the Chair of CIOB’s Highlands and Islands Hub as well as a CIOB Assist Ambassador. Sharon said: “When the opportunity presented itself, I was happy to help promote CIOB Assist. It provides vital support to many in our industry who for a variety of reasons need some additional support to help them through difficult periods. Any of us at any time could experience a change in circumstances and it is good to know there is support available if we need it.”

While CIOB is hugely proud of the Assist programme and the support it provides, we also recognise that more must be done to prevent those working in the built environment industry developing poor mental health, and we continue to campaign on this important matter. Last year, CIOB responded to the consultation on a new Suicide Prevention Strategy and Action Plan for Scotland, calling on the Scottish Government to work with industries that suffer from high rates of poor mental health and suicide, like construction, to address the work-related factors before it’s too late.

Although many approaches to identifying and responding to signs of mental ill-health can be applied across the business sectors, we believe hard to reach industries like construction that have complex supply chains and large numbers of self-employed people should receive additional focus.

CIOB is calling for the UK Government to coordinate better data collection to understand levels of poor mental health, how companies are trying to reduce issues contributing towards it and what support they need themselves at a company level. Additionally, CIOB recommends better monitoring of interventions to understand across all sectors best practices for implementing mental health prevention strategies and which interventions are most effective for managing and reducing levels of poor mental health.

For more information on the support available from CIOB Assist or to donate visit here.

  • Emme McKay is the CIOB Assist manager.

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