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Emotional support service offered to small businesses across Scotland

SMEs and business improvement district teams able to access free scheme to help people cope with the emotional impact and anxieties triggered by Covid-19

Special support is being offered to help people in small businesses across Scotland respond to stresses created or exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

An alliance in Oban has developed the free cognitive behavioural coaching which it believes is greatly needed as people return to their places of work, including some who have been on long-term furlough.

Bid4Oban Business Improvement District (BID) has been working on the programme with experts from Oban CBT Clinic. Its rollout nationally is being supported by a £10,000 grant from a resilience fund for BIDs delivered by Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP) for the Scottish Government.

Andrew Spence, Bid4Oban’s Chief Executive, said: “It’s becoming increasingly clear that people have real anxieties about returning to work – or to what was their place of work before the pandemic – and that support is needed.

“We have seen that with businesses in Oban. This, however, is not just a local issue. The same is true for people the length and breadth of the country, but providing the support needed is difficult for small and medium sized businesses without human resources departments.

“Business resilience is about so much more than finances and buildings. The importance of emotional resilience can be so often overlooked, but I cannot think of another time when our collective emotional resilience has been tested for so long. Personally, that can affect us all in different ways.”

The grant support means that the programme of four 30-minute weekly phone or video calls is available without charge for those working in small and medium-sized businesses as well as in the network of business improvement districts across Scotland.

Fiona Blunsden, Senior Therapist at Oban CBT Clinic, said: “These are a series of therapeutic conversations exploring skills and strategies that will help those taking part improve their mental health and wellbeing.

“The impact of the pandemic on mental health and wellbeing is well-documented and, even though people are slowly returning to a version of normaily, it is not as simple for people as just ‘switching back’ as we readjust and return to things that were previously pretty routine.

Jacquie Beaton, also a Senior Therapist at Oban CBT Clinic, added: “The pandemic has created – or perhaps exacerbated – anxieties and concerns that people need help managing. It’s also becoming clear that many people have got into unhealthy habits that don’t serve to improve our resilience. This scheme aims to help that.”

The Oban-based alliance believes that by collaborating they can empower people through practical steps to get the most out of their work, in turn supporting communities and local economies.

STP Chief Officer Phil Prentice said: “It’s so important that we all look after our emotional and mental wellbeing. This project will allow businesses and BIDs across Scotland to do exactly that.

“The pandemic has tested everyone differently. BIDs have been at the forefront of the Covid-19 response in their communities, supporting businesses as they have reopened in a safe and responsible way. That has come with real pressures.

“For people who may now only be starting to think about a return from home working, that can come with its anxieties too. With all of that in mind, I am sure this innovative scheme from the team in Oban – which we are delighted to support – will make a real difference to people.”

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Picture shows: Fiona Blunsden, left, and Jacquie Beaton of Oban CBT Clinic