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A message from Executive Director, Emma Alexander 17 July 2020

22 July 2020

There's no doubt that this continues to be an uncertain time for all of us as new government guidance is regularly introduced and we all do our best to protect ourselves, our families and those we work with while enjoying some extra freedoms.

At this time it's particularly important to pay attention to your mental wellbeing and remember that talking to others is a very good place to start when there are things that are worrying you. Please don't forget that there is confidential support available if you need someone to talk to, including our employee assistance programme or our mental health first aiders.

It's encouraging to see that many of you have already taken the opportunity to download the Thrive: mental wellbeing app and I invite more of you to do the same. The app, which has been approved by the NHS, can screen for anxiety and depression and includes resources to help you tackle common causes of stress. I've downloaded it and it has some really good tools, such as guided meditations and relaxation techniques. Personally, I have to admit that I was always a bit sceptical about such things but having tried guided mindfulness sessions, I have found them really valuable and would encourage you to try it. Like me, you may be surprised at its effectiveness.

We all have a responsibility to be open about mental health and look out for our colleagues so please continue to support each other. Just a kind word and being there for a colleague can make all the difference.

Keeping in touch is so important and I'm pleased to see that more and more of you are now able to take advantage of using Microsoft Teams to communicate with your colleagues both within the council and externally. The roll out of the software continues, which is now available on 75% of all PCs and laptops. We recently launched the request for digital champions who will receive additional training so that they can help other colleagues make the most of Teams. I am delighted with your response – 150 people signed up within the first 24 hours and we now have a total of 280. If you’re interested in taking part you can still register online.

Teams has supported our ability to respond to the changing world, including enabling us to hold virtual Full Council meetings and host the successful Talk Fostering event which provided much needed potential foster carers with the chance to find out more about this rewarding opportunity.

I'm sure that as more features of Teams are made available to everyone it will prove hugely beneficial in enabling us to keep in touch, continue adapting, embracing change and developing new solutions.

You may have also seen that we've just launched new leadership and management apprenticeships in partnership with the University of Derby. The apprenticeships at levels 5, 6 and 7 will support our leaders in taking a bold, innovative approach and encouraging their teams to think and do things differently.

There's only a short window of opportunity to apply for a place so I'd encourage all those interested to find out more as soon as possible.

May I thank you for your continued resilience. I am very proud of how you have taken the opportunity to build on the strength you've shown in recent months, moving forwards in ways we might not have previously thought possible.