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Eloise Henderson
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A new ground-breaking 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 20211.

Judges from B&CE’s Charitable Trustwere impressed by the joint submission from London-based charity Mates in Mind3 and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES)4, who have proposed 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 average5.

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 qualitative 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.

Nicola Sinclair, from B&CE’s Charitable Trust, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled that Mates in Mind and 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.”

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.”

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.”

Those wanting to participate in the research, which is due to start in the coming months, can contact Mates in Mind at

BNotes to editors:

1. B&CE’s Charitable Trust’s Occupational Health Research Award of £25,000 is given annually. This is awarded to a UK research institution in support of occupational health research that aims to make a significant difference to construction workers. The 2020/21 award opened on December 2 and closed to entries on February 5.

2. B&CE’s Charitable Trust was set up in 1991 to give back to the construction industry by providing help for people working in construction in times of need, including grants towards education, financial support and retraining. It has given out more than £3.6 million in charitable donations. It is based at B&CE’s headquarters in Manor Royal, Crawley.

3. Mates in Mind is a leading UK charity that enables organisations, of any size, to improve their workforces’ mental health. It does this by providing the skills, clarity and confidence to employers on how to raise awareness, improve understanding and address the stigma that surrounds mental health.

4. The Institute for Employment Studies is a leading independent, not-for-profit centre for research and evidence-based consultancy on employment, the labour market and HR policy and practice.

5. The ONS ( ) reported that more than 1,400 construction workers took their own lives between 2011 and 2015, according to national statistics. The rate is more than three times the national average for men. For males working in skilled trades, the highest risk was among building finishing trades; particularly, plasterers and painters and decorators had more than double the risk of suicide than the male national average.