Support in Mind Scotland is delighted to be working in partnership with Mental Health UK and Neptune Energy to deliver the ‘Rural Connections’ Project. The project aims to improve mental health and wellbeing throughout rural Scotland by providing fully funded introductory mental health awareness training to rural organisations and businesses with less than 50 members of staff. In addition, the project aims to support businesses to implement and strengthen workplace wellbeing policies/activity.

The project is funded until March 2024.

Introductory Mental Health Awareness Training

Four- hour (2×2 hour Zoom sessions) ‘An Insight into Mental Health’ courses can be delivered directly to your staff team or individuals can join an ‘Open Course’. ‘Open’ courses will be compromised of participants from a range of organisations and are a good way to access the training if you only have a few members of staff. The awareness sessions cover of the following topics:

  • What is mental health and mental illness
  • An introduction to some common mental health conditions
  • The benefits of managing stress
  • A four-step process to building safe and supportive conversations
  • How to look after you own mental health and wellbeing

Workplace Wellbeing

There has been an increasing interest in improving workplace wellbeing over the last few years, particularly in light of the Covid pandemic and the impact that it has had on our mental health. There is a strong economic reason for prioritising your employees wellbeing with over 70 million working days lost in 2019/20 due to Stress, Anxiety and Depression. According to Deloitte in 2017, if an employer invests in their employees wellbeing they could see a return on investment of up to 9 times. However, there is also a strong case for supporting the mental health of your employees as a caring and responsible employer – investing in the mental wellbeing of your staff team is beneficial for everyone.

It is often the case that employers would like to embed wellbeing within the workplace but may not have the time/resource or simply not know where to start. There are plenty of resources listed below that can help you create a wellbeing policy that include information about supporting colleagues that are off work, challenging stigma, and the ‘Mental Health at Work Commitment’. However, even taking on a few simple actions can be highly beneficial and focusing on what you ‘can do’ within your time, budget and resources is worthwhile.

Taking a first step to promoting and supporting workplace wellbeing does not have to be time-consuming or involve a cost, for example:

  • If you are a rural employer with less than 50 members of staff, then enquire about the funded mental health training above. The training can help to develop everyone’s awareness about mental health, start conversations and challenge stigma
  • Embedding mental health in your work culture – can you add wellbeing ideas to the staff meeting, a monthly ‘wellbeing café’ or even a staff survey to explore staff suggestions for improving workplace wellbeing
  • Lunch time walking or reading group
  • Staff support/supervision sessions – include a question such as ‘Where are you today mood-wise on a 1-10 scale?’ This can provide an opportunity for staff to think about and share how they are feeling
  • Tie in to local and national organisations who can provide information, support and guidance e.g., Breathing Space and Samaritans free phone helpline and web services (newsletters, payslips, intranet, staff rooms)
  • Allow a weekly ‘wellbeing window’. One working hour per week to take time for an employee’s self-care (relaxing, yoga, reading, sitting quietly with a coffee…)
  • Meeting times – schedule 50-minute meetings instead of one hour and 25 minute meetings instead of 30 minutes – this has been trialed in a national organisation that reported its benefits!

For more information about how your organisation could benefit from the funded opportunity, please click here. If you’d like to arrange a session, reach out to us and we can help you to do that. You can email us at info@caithnesschamber.com

The UK will invest £1.4 billion to bolster our national interests in space, as part of the first Defence Space Strategy published today.

  • UK’s first Defence Space Strategy published today to address growing threats
  • £1.4 billion invested in cutting-edge technology to protect UK interests in space
  • UK will strengthen partnerships with key allies and NATO to build stability and resilience

Following publication of the National Space Strategy in September last year, the Defence Space Strategy (DSS) outlines how Defence will protect the UK’s national interests in space in an era of ever-growing threats, stimulating growth across the sector and supporting highly skilled jobs across the UK.

As part of the new £1.4 billion investment, over the next ten years £968 million will be committed to deliver a multi-satellite system to support greater global surveillance and intelligence for military operations – known as the ISTARI Programme. A further £61 million will explore cutting-edge laser communications technology to deliver data from space to Earth at a speed equivalent to superfast broadband.

This substantial investment in space defence is on top of the existing £5 billion already upgrading the UK’s Skynet satellite communications capability – providing strategic communication services to the UK Armed Forces and allies.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:

It’s crucial we continue to push the frontiers of our defence space ambitions, enhancing our military resilience and strengthening our nation’s security.

This significant investment will help to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of space innovation and one step ahead of our competitors.

Through close international collaboration with our allies and NATO, the DSS outlines how the UK will protect our space interests, build stability, increase resilience and prevent conflicts from extending into space. In addition to projects funded by £1.4 billion, a series of supporting programmes funded through existing investment will launch as part of the DSS to provide cutting-edge technologies for intelligence, surveillance, situational awareness, and Command and Control. These include:

MINERVA

An additional £127 million invested over the next four years will develop a network of satellites designed to integrate space with land, air, sea and cyber. An operational concept demonstrator, the new programme “MINERVA”, will present the UK’s ability to autonomously collect, process and disseminate data from UK and allied space assets to support frontline military decision-making. Work has already commenced on the programme and MINERVA will present a developed and tested system in due course, which will be brought together under the established UK Space Command and underpin the £968 million ISTARI Programme.

PROMETHEUS 2

Designed and assembled by In-Space Missions Ltd in Alton, two tiny satellites (30cm x 20cm x 10cm), comparable to the size of a shoebox, will provide a test platform for monitoring through GPS, radio signals and sophisticated imaging, paving the way for a more collaborative and connected space communication system with our combat allies.

These satellites will support MOD’s science and technology activities both in orbit and on the ground through the development of ground systems focussed at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory site near Portsmouth.

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said:

With this strategy, the Ministry of Defence will protect and promote the United Kingdom’s interests in space, and take a leading role in the coalition of like-minded nations and organisations who have come together to ensure space is there for the benefit of all.

In a separate development, Oxford Space Systems has today announced an investment round of £4 million which, subject to final completion, will accelerate the build of their innovative Wrapped Rib Antenna. Working in collaboration with the Ministry of Defence and backed by UK venture capital investors and the National Security Strategic Investment Fund, the project will create up to 50 new jobs. The technology will enable high resolution imaging from small satellite earth observation missions, irrespective of weather conditions or daylight.

The UK has been operating in space continuously since 1988 and boasts a world-leading sovereign satellite communications capability. UK Space Command, established in July 2021, will lead our Defence space approach, harnessing the energy and adaptability of the country’s space sector, while driving integration, innovation and conducting day-to-day space operations, all under a single command.

The DSS reinforces objectives outlined in the 2021 Integrated Review: to build resilience, shape the international order of the future; sustain strategic advantage through science and technology; and strengthen security and defence at home and overseas.

Scottish Government are working on their new long-term Road Safety focus, which is on speed.

The campaign was launched on TV and Radio on 25th February and you can view the TV advertisement here.

Government are keen to engage with businesses across Scotland to amplify the campaign message to reach the audience of 22-25 year olds in Scotland who use private vehicles to get to their place of work, and also those who drive vehicles as part of their job.

The campaign assets, which can be found on the Speed Hub, can be used by businesses to engage employees to raise awareness around the dangers of speeding, with the ultimate goal of changing behaviour and a reduction in serious collisions on Scotland’s roads.

Why do Scottish Government want to partner with businesses?

Driving is the most dangerous work activity that most people do, and it contributes to far more work-related accidental deaths and serious injuries than all other work activities.

How can you help?

The Speed Hub on roadsafety.scot has a host of useful information, resources and ready to use assets that can be utilised by businesses to amplify the campaign message on internal and external channels.

  • Digital assets for the intranet to engage employees and on external social media channels to show support for the campaign
  • Static assets (posters) that can be printed in-house and placed in staff areas

To find out more about this campaign, visit www.roadsafety.scot

Tens of thousands of small businesses will receive insurance payouts covering losses from the first national lockdown, following a court ruling.

The Supreme Court found largely in favour of small firms receiving payments from business interruption insurance policies.

For some businesses it could provide a lifeline, allowing them to trade beyond the coronavirus crisis.

The ruling could cost the insurance sector hundreds of millions of pounds.

The City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), brought the test case, with eight insurers agreeing to take part in proceedings.

One of the insurers set to make significant payouts is Hiscox, which was challenged by thousands of its policyholders as part of the case.

Richard Leedham, who represented the Hiscox Action Group – on behalf of small businesses, said: “This is a landmark victory for a small group of businesses who took on a huge insurance player and have been fully vindicated.

“What is important now is that Hiscox accepts the Supreme Court’s verdict and starts paying out to its policy holders, many of whom are in danger of going under”.

Other insurers involved in the test case are Arch, Argenta, MS Amlin, QBE and RSA – but as many as 60 insurers sold similar products. They will now pay out on many, but not all, policies.

Huw Evans, director general of the Association of British Insurers, said: “All valid claims will be settled as soon as possible and in many cases the process of settling claims has begun.

“We recognise this has been a particularly difficult time for many small businesses and naturally regret the Covid-19 restrictions have led to disputes with some customers.”

What is this case about?

In the lockdown of last spring, many small businesses made claims through business interruption insurance policies for loss of earnings when they had to close.

But many insurers refused to pay, arguing only the most specialist policies had cover for such unprecedented restrictions.

It was agreed that a selection of policy wordings should be tested in court, setting the parameters for what would be considered a valid claim.

The ruling provides guidance for a wider pool of 700 policies, potentially affecting 370,000 small businesses.

Giving the court’s ruling, Lord Hamblen said the court accepted the arguments from representatives of policyholders and dismissed appeals from insurers against an earlier judgement finding in policyholders’ favour.

The complex ruling covered issues such as disease clauses, whether business were denied access to the properties, and the timing of lost earnings.

Staff outside The Drawing RoomIMAGE COPYRIGHT JAMES OLLERENSHAW
Staff outside The Drawing Room – one of the businesses affected – in happier times

James Ollerenshaw’s hair salon was one of those businesses unable to operate during the first national lockdown.

The business – The Drawing Room in London’s Spitalfields – paid an annual premium of £1,200 for business interruption insurance, and disease cover came as part of it.

Mr Ollerenshaw said the Supreme Court’s decision would not directly affect his policy, but would decide the principles on claims such as his – and were vital for the business.

“A payout would cover the major costs, which is the rent. We have debt sitting there,” he said.

He said he was delighted with the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“The insurance industry needs to face up to the fact that it failed customers at their greatest moment of need, destroying companies, livelihoods and jobs,” he said.

He formed a Covid Claims Group, joining other small business owners in calling for a quick resolution and payouts.

“Time matters,” he said, pointing out that some small businesses have been forced to close down while waiting for the decision.

Sheldon Mills, from the FCA, which brought the case on behalf of policyholders, said: “Coronavirus is causing substantial loss and distress to businesses and many are under immense financial strain to stay afloat. Today’s judgment decisively removes many of the roadblocks to claims by policyholders.

“We will be working with insurers to ensure that they now move quickly to pay claims that the judgment says should be paid, making interim payments wherever possible.”

The test case was fast-tracked to the highest court in England and Wales – the Supreme Court, which heard four days of legal representations in November. The final ruling provides authoritative guidance for these policies, and potentially of similar ones not part of the case.

The FCA, the insurance sector, and the Financial Ombudsman will all use the judgement to guide their decisions in other cases.

The Financial Ombudsman Service and courts in Scotland and Northern Ireland are expected to use the judgment to rule on other, similar cases.

Insurance policies would have been amended for new and renewing customers since this issue emerged, so losses from the latest lockdown measures in different parts of the UK would be clearly stated as part of the cover – or not – in new business interruption insurance policies.

Source: BBC News, story in full here.

Criminals are sending out phishing emails, purportedly from well-known delivery companies, which claim that they have been unable to deliver parcels, packages or large letters. These emails may ask the recipient to pay a fee or provide additional details in order to rearrange the delivery. The recipient are typically tricked into clicking on links to seemingly genuine websites requesting
personal and financial information such as their address, date of birth, mobile number or bank details, which are then used to commit fraud. In some cases, victims later receive a call from the criminal pretending to be from their bank’s fraud team, trying to persuade them to move their money to a safe account or reveal their pass codes.

You should also be aware of an increased risk of scam phone calls and texts impersonating delivery companies, as well as fake delivery notices posted through letterboxes. Similarly, these will ask for advance payment or for the recipient to provide information that is later used to defraud them.

  • Remember that criminals will send out phishing emails with links leading to fake websites used to steal personal and financial information. These emails may appear to be from trusted organisations and may use official branding to convince you they’re genuine. Always access websites by typing them into the web browser and avoid clicking on links in emails.
  • Remain vigilant and check delivery notifications very carefully to ensure they are genuine. Emails, texts or cards through your letterbox may look very similar to those that are genuine but may use generic greetings, such as Dear Sir/Madam, or include spelling errors.
  • Always question claims that you are due goods or services that you haven’t ordered or are unaware of, especially if you have to pay any fees upfront. Consider whether you’re expecting
    a delivery from the company named on the card.
  • If you receive a delivery card through your letterbox which you do not believe is genuine and which asks you to dial a premium rate number, contact the company direct, using a number
    you know to be genuine.

You can get more information by following the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign. You can report suspected scam texts to your mobile network provider by forwarding them to 7726,
and forward any suspicious emails to report@phishing.gov.uk, the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) suspicious email reporting service. If you have been a victim of crime, and it is not an ongoing emergency, you can report this to Police Scotland on 101. For all emergency calls, dial 999.

The UK Government’s Kickstart Scheme provides funding to create new, fully subsidised job placements for 16-24 year olds on Universal Credit who are at risk of long-term unemployment.

Employers of any size will receive funding for 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum auto-enrolment pension contributions. Employers will also receive £1500 towards training, equipment and set up costs.

Employers can spread the start date of the job placements up until the end of December 2021.

All job placements under the Kickstart Scheme must be new roles and must not replace existing or planned vacancies, or cause existing employees, apprentices or contractors to lose work or reduce their working hours.

Inverness Chamber of Commerce is acting as a “gateway organisation” to assist those interested in taking part of the scheme but looking to create less than 30 new roles.

If you are interested in taking part in the scheme, download the employers guide and then simply click here to register your interest and request an application form.

A new improved section of the A9, north of Inverness, to open traffic later today

The £9.6 million Berriedale Braes Improvement project which at its peak supported over 50 jobs during construction, will today start to deliver benefits for road users and local communities.

The improved road alignment, which involved removing an existing hairpin bend, will improve journey times and enhance road safety by removing the need for vehicles to slow down or stop to negotiate the bend.

Delivering this transport project underlines the Scottish Government’s commitment to improve the trunk road network across the length and breadth of Scotland.

Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson said:

“I  welcome the opening of this key improvement project today, which will now begin to deliver improved road safety as well as better journey times for A9 road users.

“I would also like to pass on my appreciation to the contractor, RJ McLeod for their hard work and effort in constructing this project. They have been mindful from the outset of the strategic importance of this key route in the picturesque Scottish Highlands and the need to balance the delivery of complex engineering works with measures to mitigate impacts on the surrounding environment.

“During a visit last summer, I was able to see some of the measures the contractor took including using alternative techniques to remove a vast quantity of rock while avoiding disturbance of the nearby coastal bird colony during breeding season.”

Contractor RJ McLeod will remain on site for a period of time to undertake necessary finishing and landscaping work. A temporary 30 mph speed restriction will be in place for around seven days after the road opening to allow the workforce to safely carry out landscaping and verge works adjacent to the road.

Scott Marr, Site Agent, RJ McLeod, contractor said

“We are delighted to see the works concluded and the new road opened at A9 Berriedale Braes. The works have been designed and constructed to alleviate previous issues with tight bends and steep gradients on this notorious stretch of road. We trust that the travelling public will now enjoy a safer and more comfortable travel experience on this stretch of the A9.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the local community and the general travelling public for their patience throughout the construction period.”

Michael MacLean, AECOM Technical Director, Roads, UK and Ireland, said:

“The opening of this much anticipated improvement to the Scotland’s trunk road network is another key milestone for the project. Following years of planning, local road users, who regularly travel along this route, will now benefit from more efficient and safer journeys through this beautiful part of the Scottish Highlands.”

Young people are expected to face some of the greatest challenges with employment as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. As such, Social Security Scotland would like to make as many businesses and individuals as possible aware of the Job Start Payment so that it can reach those who could benefit from it.

Businesses are encouraged to make any new employees aged 16 to 24, or 25 if they are a care leaver who has been in receipt of certain benefits for a period of 6 months or more aware of the scheme so that they can apply. The £250 or £400 if the young person has responsibility for any children is available to help them get whatever they need to be able to start work.

Getting a job offer can sometimes just be the first hurdle for a young person. If they have faced a period of unemployment, getting the money together to cover the costs of starting a job can be a barrier too.

People will be able to apply for Job Start Payment from 17 August 2020 online using this link or via the freephone helpline: 0800 182 2222

Businesses can find resources to support the promotion of this benefit here.

“We’re Good To Go” is the official UK mark to signal that a tourism and hospitality business has worked hard to follow Government and industry COVID-19 guidelines and has a process in place to maintain cleanliness and aid social distancing.

Apply now to confirm your business has taken the necessary measures and is operating in line with the Government guidelines and Public Health guidance (relating to Scottish businesses) clearly set out in your COVID-19 Risk Assessment.

Upon successful completion of the application, you will be sent a secure link to download your certificate, mark and a toolkit with practical steps for telling your customers that your business is Good to Go.

The application will take approximately 20 minutes to complete and you need to make sure you have read the relevant Government and Public Health guidance for your country before you begin. Please also make sure you have read the Terms & Conditions.

For more information on reopening your business, including links to sector specific guidance, please visit the Business Advice Hub. If you have any further questions, please call 0345 873 8050.

Click here to find out more.