Bus operators launch mental health wellbeing initiative in Mental Health Awareness Week to support colleagues

1 year ago Tue 11th May 2021

Photo of Carousel Buses wellbeing support team in front of a double decker bus


Oxford Bus Company, Thames Travel, Carousel Buses and City SightSeeing Oxford have introduced a ‘wellbeing team’ to provide mental health support to colleagues.

It was launched earlier this month and announced this week to coincide with the UK’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

A group of 11 volunteer wellbeing support champions have received specialist mental health training to help them spot triggers, reassure colleagues and source further support where required. The scheme has already successfully provided support to colleagues.

Phil Southall, Managing Director at Oxford Bus Company, Thames Travel, Carousel Buses and City Sightseeing Oxford said: “The pandemic has been a particularly challenging period for public transport workers who have kept essential services running throughout the year, irrespective of restrictions in other walks of life.

“We want to make sure colleagues are properly supported and this initiative ensures support is readily available across our various locations. There must be no stigma around mental health, and we want to make sure everybody knows help is at hand when they need it.”

Clare Child, HR Manager at Oxford Bus Company, Thames Travel, Carousel Buses and City Sightseeing Oxford said: “Mental Health Awareness Week is open to everyone – it is all about starting conversations about mental health and the things in our daily lives that can affect it.

“We are pleased to be launching our Mental Health Wellbeing Team having invested in training with “Mental Health First Aid” for colleagues. It is vital that our colleagues are properly supported and this initiative ensures that support is readily available across our companies.”

Oxford Bus Company service delivery and private hire manager Kev Flannagan is one of the new wellbeing team. Having suffered with his own mental health crisis six years ago, he signed up to be in Oxford Bus Company’s first ever cohort of wellbeing support champions.

He helps colleagues work through mental health issues and identifies people who may feel vulnerable. With more than 20 years’ experience in the bus industry he has seen first-hand the ‘seismic shift’ in the sector’s culture and how it deals with mental health.

Mr Flannagan said: “15 years ago, if a driver was off sick for depression, you’d never know. It is a lot more open now. Knowing where the bottom of the barrel is – you don’t want to see anyone else hit it.”

The wellbeing team builds on the operators’ long standing Employee Assistance Programme which provides mental health support, including access to counsellors. The new initiative was launched as part of Go-Ahead’s mental health charter.

Four-fifths of Go-Ahead’s workforce is male, although initiatives are in place to encourage more women to consider careers in transport. Men are more likely than women to have lower levels of life satisfaction and are less likely to access mental health support. The Covid-19 pandemic has also been found to sharply escalate stress, anxiety and isolation among transport workers.