Garda Health and Wellbeing Strategy: 2 years on - the story so far

Update on initiatives which have been implemented to date

The Health and Wellbeing Strategy was launched on 4th May 2021.

The Strategy set out the steps An Garda Síochána will take to ensure that our vision for the health and wellbeing of all AGS personnel is embedded across the organisation and reflected not only in policies and procedures, but also in our interactions with one another. The vision set out in the Strategy adopts a holistic approach to wellbeing. A range of factors affect everyone's wellbeing but we also know that good mental health and physical health are crucial pillars that strengthen our resilience and ability to cope with daily life. In relation to our workplace, there is no doubt that policing as a profession has unique challenges and hazards. It is important that our Strategy and Action Plan recognises this and that appropriate services and supports are available to all, as required. We are committed and determined to understand and address the issues affecting our staff and to "Keeping our People Supported".

In recognition of the resourcing challenges and the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic had on the Occupational Health Service it was agreed at executive level to align the Garda Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2021-2023 to the 'Healthy Ireland at Work' - A National Framework for Healthy Workplaces in Ireland 2021-2025 strategy; this means that the Strategy and Action Plan now extends to 2025.

Taking into consideration the limited resources in the last 2 years, appreciable progress has been achieved in the implementation of the Action Plan to date. This is testament to everyone involved in supporting the Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

Below is an update on initiatives which have been implemented to date:

Establishment of the Wellbeing Office  - Action Plan 1.1.3

The Garda National Wellbeing Office (GNWO) was officially established in October 2022 as part of the Garda Occupational Health and Wellbeing Directorate. The establishment of the GNWO will ensure An Garda Síochána continues to effectively drive the implementation of Health and Wellbeing and to support Garda personnel through the rollout of health and wellbeing initiatives aligned to the goals of the Health and Wellbeing Strategy and Action Plan 2021 to 2025.

KOPS Wellbeing App - Keeping Our People Supported - Action Plan 2.1.1

The KOPS App was developed in collaboration with a wider Project Team and launched in November 2021. The name was a winning idea from the Innovation Hackathon. The App ensures that there is a resource available for all Garda personnel to access Information, Advice and Signposting to speak to someone 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The KOPS App is automatically installed on the Work Side of Active Mobility devices. 

Some insights on usage;

  • 14,656 users - March 22 to 23
  • The most visited pages - 'Useful Contacts' followed by 'Common Concerns'
  • There have been over 170,933 page views across the app.

Launch of the Menopause Guidance Document - Action Plan 2.1.4

A Steering Group, convened by the GWO, developed the Menopause Guidance Document, with full consultation and input from the Health and Wellbeing Stakeholders Forum and the Senior Leadership Team. The guidance document was launched on 21st February 2023. The guidance document is for anyone who is experiencing, or who may in the future experience, menopausal symptoms, whatever their gender identity. The document is also intended as a guidance tool for line managers and colleagues of those personnel experiencing menopause. The publication of this Menopause Guidance Document is another step in An Garda Síochána's efforts to embed a culture of dignity and respect in the workplace and to promote Health and Wellbeing, as part of the implementation of the Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2021-2025.

Mental Health First Aid Programme (MHFA) - Action Plan 2.2.2

We know from the Health Needs Assessment Survey run in An Garda Síochána in 2019 that mental health is a priority issue Garda personnel are very concerned about. A recent report from the Healthy Ireland Team in the Department of Health confirms that mental health has become even more of a challenge for many during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the Health and Wellbeing Strategy for An Garda Síochána, An Garda Síochána committed to delivering various training and other interventions to engender and support good mental health in the workplace. Delivering MHFA to our personnel is an important step in this journey.

In 2022, the GNWO delivered five pilot Mental Health First Aid training courses involving staff across sections and ranks/grades in the organisation. In Q1 2023 a review of the MHFA pilot was completed by the GNWO on behalf of the Chief Medical Officer (CMO). The feedback was very positive. As a result, a decision was made to roll out this programme to the whole organisation. The next steps are to build capacity internally to deliver MHFA training to all personnel over 2023/2024. Funding has now been approved to deliver the training programme for An Garda Síochána. This funding will enable MHFA Ireland Instructors to deliver a facilitated train-the-trainer programme to provide accredited MHFA Instructors within An Garda Síochána and fund the rollout of MHFA training to all Garda personnel.

Psychological Support Programme (HQ 44/2020) - Programme Review and Expansion - 1.4.1

The PSP includes both mandatory and voluntary elements of psychological support for Garda personnel working in certain areas risked assessed as particularly psychologically hazardous in nature. PSP provides general psychological and wellbeing support aimed at avoiding and mitigating the risk of indirect trauma/stress through nature of work exposures. The focus is on prevention rather than intervention. PSP has in-built escalation to therapeutic intervention where this is required or identified as needed. A Programme Evaluation Report Summary & Recommendations Report has been completed following the 12-months programme evaluation - these recommendations will be communicated in the near future.

Wellbeing Stakeholders Forum - Action Plan 3.1.5

The Wellbeing Stakeholders Forum was established in 2019 to provide key stakeholders with an opportunity to feed into the Health and Wellbeing Strategy project. This collaborative approach has allowed for the exchange of ideas and discussion among stakeholders which will ultimately benefit all personnel in An Garda Síochána. The Wellbeing Stakeholders Forum meet every quarter. On 29th March 2023, the Wellbeing Stakeholders meeting took place with internal and external stakeholders in attendance. The agenda items that were discussed were the launch of the Menopause Guidance document and an overview of the MHFA programme and the plans for the future.

External Partnerships - Action Plan 3.1.1, 3.1.2, 3.1.3, 3.1.4

Ongoing discussions with Oscar Kilo (The National Police Wellbeing Service for England and Wales), Healthy Ireland at WorkNational Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP)Diabetes Ireland and many others to build out partnership programmes in the near future. The GNWO is working on a Joint Partnership Research Project with the Policing Authority.

Internal Communications - Action Plan 1.3.1

A key action from the Action Plan is to promote usage of key supports. With input from the GNWO, Newsbeat now has a Health and Wellbeing feature and ensures the promotion of available supports and resources to all Garda personnel.

What's Coming Next - 

In line with the Health and Wellbeing Strategy and Action Plan 2021 to 2025 the following key initiatives will be a priority over the remainder of lifetime of the Strategy;

1. Launch and roll out MHFA training to all Garda personnel. (2.2.2)

2. Wellbeing Hub on the AGS Portal - a one-stop shop for everything to do with supports and information on personal health, safety, welfare and wellbeing. (2.1.2)

3. Design and roll out of the Local Wellbeing Champions Network in An Garda Síochána. (1.1.1)

4. Menopause at Work Workshops - in person and online to support the embedding of the Menopause Guidance document. (2.1.4)

5. Garda Physio of Choice Programme - The aim of the programme is to have a network of contracted physiotherapy providers across the regions to facilitate early access to a local physiotherapist service at the recommendation of a relevant health care professional.

6. Review of KOPS App. (2.1.1)

7. A follow up Health Needs Assessment Survey in 2024. (1.1.2)

8. To organise an inaugural AGS Health and Wellbeing Summit. (3.1.6)