Brexit department trains civil servants in self defence

DExEU minister reveals department has 32 trained mental health champions in wellbeing drive

The Department for Exiting the European Union organised a self-defence class for staff. Credit: Pixabay

By Tamsin Rutter

27 Nov 2017

It has emerged that the officials squaring up against EU negotiators have been trained in self defence – with the Department for Exiting the European Union offering classes in a bid to protect the physical and mental wellbeing of its staff.

DExEU minister Steve Baker revealed last week that the department had trained 32 civil servants as mental health champions and supplied staff with tips on how to look after one other. 

Answering a parliamentary question about working conditions in DExEU from Labour MP Chris Ruane, Baker said his department had "a dedicated mental health and wellbeing group who have been leading on a number of wellbeing activities".


The civil service committed to implementing an upgraded programme of mental health support last month, following the publication of a government-commissioned report, Thriving at Work, which proposed a series of recommendations to improve support for staff.

Baker said the civil service had pledged to become a leading employer on mental health support and DExEU in particular had taken a number of steps to improve wellbeing at work.

"Health and wellbeing forms part of the Department for Exiting the European Union commitment to making the department a great place to work," he said. 

"The department has a dedicated mental health and wellbeing group who have been leading on a number of wellbeing activities across the department to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of staff employed in the department."

These included, he added, organising a panel discussion on world mental health day and signing up to the Time for Change pledge – whereby employers demonstrate their will to reducing the stigma attached to mental illness.

Mental Health First Aid England has so far trained 32 DExEU officials as mental health champions.

Barker also said the department ran a diversity week, which included a self-defence class and a session with tips on how officials can look after each other.

This is not the first time the importance of prioritising the wellbeing of DExEU staff has been raised – former head of the Government Legal Department Sir Paul Jenkins told Civil Service World earlier this year that Whitehall must "recognise the strains" likely to emerge over the "very long, tough haul" of Brexit negotiations.

The just-published Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Strategy sets out how Whitehall plans to meet its stated aim of becoming the most inclusive employer in the UK by 2020, including by holding every member of the Senior Civil Service accountable through performance management for creating a more diverse workforce.

Read the most recent articles written by Tamsin Rutter - What Works for monitoring and maintaining workplace wellbeing?

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