Industry Influencers: Bill Hill, CEO, Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity
For the next in our series of blogs featuring Construction Industry Influencers we caught up with Bill Hill, CEO of the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity. Since joining the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity in 2013 Bill has been instrumental in raising its profile as well as launching the Construction Industry Helpline App which was developed in collaboration with COINS.
Q: Tell us a little bit about what you do/how you work with the construction sector
'No worker should be alone in a crisis!' Over 53% of the construction workforce are self employed, if they have a crisis, there is often nowhere they can turn to for support. Our charity exists to offer wellbeing and welfare services to those that cannot access support from anywhere else. You could see it as an employee assistance safety net for all.
We provide this reactive service through our confidential 24/7 Construction Industry Helpline and our dedicated team of case workers.
Thanks to COINS we have now introduced a complementary App to promote self help and awareness information on mental wellbeing, physical wellbeing and financial wellbeing. This App proactively gives information support and guidance to individuals to hopefully avert a crisis situation.
We also provide support to organisations through the industry leading Building Mental Health programme and we offer a wide variety of mental health training ranging from tool box talks, ‘bite size’ lunch and learn sessions right through to the MHFA England approved courses.
We work closely with the construction sector to understand the specific needs of the industry. This means that we are well placed to develop and deliver new ‘front end’ interventions that will help improve the safety and wellbeing of our construction workforce.
We are a founder member of the Building Mental Health initiative that was conceived in response to the 2017 Stevenson / Farmer report ‘Thriving at Work’.
Through this activity our charity has created an online portal of information about mental health to help companies start and develop the process of building a positive mental health culture in their organisation. The contributors are a group of volunteers who have shared their industry knowledge and experience of the latest thinking and best practice which includes downloadable tool box talks and videos, through to advice on how to access mental health training, All the information is available free of charge and aims to address industry specific needs.
Q: What is the Construction Industry Helpline?
The Construction Industry Helpline is available 24/7 to anyone in construction and their families. It allows free and confidential access to a portfolio of charitable services, including mental health and wellbeing support, emergency financial assistance and guidance and support on tax and debt management issues. It’s effectively a free Employee Assistance Programme for the entire industry. Even if you already have access to an EAP through your employer, we are still here for you. Many people prefer a greater degree of anonymity and feel more able to speak with someone who is completely removed from the situation. We can offer that 100%.
Q: How has the Construction Industry Helpline been received by the Industry?
We’ve distributed over 500,000 cards and posters to the construction industry. These posters and cards publicise not only the 24/7 helpline but also give information about our helpline app, which is aimed at providing support before situations escalate to crisis point. Last year 2616 construction families reached out for help to our helpline, a huge 56% increase on the previous year, so we know that the demand is still there.
We recently received feedback from a mental health first aider that we had trained who said that our helpline had literally saved a life. Someone they had been speaking to on site, had said that they felt life wasn’t worth living, but following the intervention of the first aider and our helpline, we made a difference to that person and stopped the unthinkable happening.
Q: What projects are you working on at the moment?
With the ongoing and invaluable support from COINS, we are currently developing the second stage of the app which will continue to focus on preventative tools and building resilience within the four areas of need; mental health, physical health, financial health and social health. It will specifically address addictions, prostate cancer, breast cancer, muscular skeletal problems and debt management among many other major topics that we address through our Construction Industry Helpline.
In response to industry demand we are also developing the app to meet the needs of construction companies with major sites or projects who want to provide an easy to access single portal of information for all employees and sub contractors. The app will have the ability to provide real time information on site specific issues such as site inductions or health and safety briefings etc and addresses the difficulty of getting the right information to the right people at the right time, particularly on major build projects and joint ventures.
Q: How can construction companies help?
Companies can help us spread the word about our helpline and app so that people know where to turn to for support. They can also adopt the five step plan within the Building Mental Health Programme to ensure that they are developing a positive mental health and wellbeing culture in their organisation.
In terms of supporting our charity we need construction companies to help ‘look after their own’. Our helpline services and our helpline app are free of charge but in order to maintain them and to develop our portfolio of charitable giving even further we need financial support. One of the best ways for them to do this is to pledge an annual donation and become an annual Company Supporter.
With this annual commitment we can plan ahead with confidence and grow our vital charitable services.
Q: What do you perceive as the main challenges for the construction industry in the future?
From our perspective the biggest issue is mental health. We are losing two construction workers every working day to suicide. The industry is already suffering from severe skill shortages so helping to drive culture change and putting in support mechanisms for our workforce in crisis is certainly a step in the right direction to maintain our workforce and possibly attracting a greater proportion of young people to join our industry.
Q: What do you see as the next trend/technology that will have an impact on the construction sector?
Technology can save lives. We are already seeing the benefit of our downloadable Construction Industry Helpline APP. The next revision of the APP that we are working on with COINS will be a major upgrade and enhancement. We are very excited about this. The new version will also have the ability to link to a site specific electronic noticeboard and will also help track wellbeing and MHFA interventions to provide management information that will help inform change… we can't wait!
Q: What was the most recent app you’ve downloaded?
The latest APP downloaded was ViewRanger Maps. I have made a commitment to do our 4 peaks challenge for the charity this year. This is up and down the highest mountains in Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland in 48 hours. Unfortunately these detailed maps simply confirm that my head may be making commitments that my body can't keep… we will see! If you would like to support us please visit our Just Giving page
More about the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity
The Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity is the only charity that provides financial and emotional support to the construction community and their families who have suffered an injury, illness or just need some extra support.
The charity provides a 24 /7 Construction Industry Helpline which is the first point of contact to access a range of completely free and confidential support services including;
- Emergency Financial aid to construction families in crisis
- Advice on welfare and mental wellbeing
- Support on legal, tax and debt management matters
They have also launched a free Construction Industry Helpline app aimed at people who may not feel ready or comfortable talking about their situation and provides expert advice, self-help tools and easy to use coping strategies.
Last year the total spent on charitable services was £1.13M, which included £703,661 of charitable support to construction families in need, £411,962 on education and training and £21,247 on health and safety innovation.
The Charity was also chosen to manage a two year, £1.1M CITB funded project to train 300 construction focussed mental health first aiders for the industry.
Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity Company Supporter