Lincolnshire Police are embarking on a new project to help its staff keep fit and healthy.
Officers and support staff often face difficult and stressful situations as well as long and demanding shifts.
The nature of that work is not something that can be avoided – but the force believes it should do all it can to improve wellbeing and therefore better equip staff mentally and physically to deal with the challenges they face.
Introducing the project at Police Headquarters in Nettleham, Chief Constable Bill Skelly said: “Wellbeing has always been high on my agenda and so I am delighted to be taking this to the next level with the introduction of fitness mentors. It’s not just about our people; it’s about the service we deliver. If we have people who feel good about themselves, they are going to deliver a good service.”
As part of the ongoing work of the wellbeing project, the idea aims to promote a healthy lifestyle, with fitness and diet being key elements.
The five mentors are: D/Sgt Philip Elliot – CID Lincoln, Julie Bratton – Reporting Manager, Finance, at headquarters, PC Emma Nash – CID Grantham, Kirsty James – Risk Management Officer, MOSOVO, Grantham, and Insp Jez Kumar – Staff Officer, headquarters.
The mentors will provide flexible support and advice on how to get fit and maintain a healthy lifestyle and this will meet the specific needs of the individual. They will dedicate at least four hours a week to the role (two hours of which can come out of their duty time). The project has been developed in partnership with the University of Lincoln which will continue to have a role in ongoing evaluation.
Dr Hannah Henderson, Senior Lecturer in Physical Activity and Health, said: “It is fantastic to see Lincolnshire Police putting the wellbeing of their staff at the forefront of their thinking. The physical and mental health of a work force is so important and the introduction of the fitness mentors demonstrates the commitment Lincolnshire Police are making to improve the wellbeing of their staff.
“Using researchers like myself, we can help to create real impact.”
The mentors are volunteer officers and staff from within the organisation who undertake the role in addition to their current job. As part of the programme, they work towards a level three certificate in personal training which will be delivered by the YMCA Lincolnshire. Trevor Mealing, Head of Teaching, said: “It will be hugely rewarding to see the impact within the force and within the community.”
As members of existing staff, the mentors understand the stresses of the job and how working for a police force can actually impact on the ability to stay fit and healthy. Working shifts is a good example. Sleep patterns are interrupted, it is more difficult to maintain a work-life balance and eating habits are affected as the draw of convenience foods is increased.
Insp Jez Kumar, one of the five new mentors, said: “It’s really great to have been selected to become one of the fitness mentors. As a police officer I have worked with, and managed a number of different teams, often working long hours and under difficult circumstances. I therefore really appreciate the importance of looking after the health and wellbeing of our officers and staff. Helping officers and staff improve and maintain their levels of fitness will also directly affect their ability to make a positive impact on the public we serve in Lincolnshire.”
Active Lincolnshire engaged with Lincolnshire Police on various areas of wellbeing and the fitness mentor scheme. Louise O’Reilly, Strategy and Insight Director explained: “We believe it’s so important that employers encourage activity as this is where people spend the majority of their time. This will form part of our new strategy.”
T/Insp Rachel Harrison developed the idea which originated from a scheme run by City of London Police. She said: “We have a fantastic group of diverse and motivated fitness mentors who are starting their journey through training. Over the coming months whilst that training is on-going I will continue to work with the fitness mentors and partner agencies, including the University of Lincoln, YMCA and Active Lincolnshire to deliver the training, referral and evaluation processes. Once trained the Fitness Mentors will be providing the service county wide.”
Aside from having a direct impact on staff health and wellbeing, the scheme will hopefully increase the pass rate for the job related fitness test and potentially reduce sickness levels.