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Here at Leeds Mindful Employer Network we’ve been chatting to Claire Dambawinna about how she engaged and listened to staff before setting out to develop Luminate Education Group’s new Wellbeing Strategy.

  • So tell us a bit about you Claire, and your role at Luminate Education Group.

I’m the Group Workforce Wellbeing Coordinator and am part of our Safeguarding and Wellbeing teams. My role is a strategic and very varied one with responsibilities ranging from drafting wellbeing strategies and procedures, to developing policies and practices, organising wellbeing events and leading our Wellbeing Champions network.

  • Tell our members about Luminate Education Group. Why is workforce mental health and wellbeing so important to you as an organisation?

We’re a large collective of education providers comprising of further and higher education institutions. We’re made up of Leeds City College, Keighley College, Harrogate College, Leeds Sixth Form College, Leeds Conservatoire, and University Centre Leeds. Our common purpose is to make a positive difference to people’s lives through transformative education and training.

We practise the ‘whole college approach’ to mental health and wellbeing. This features eight principles, a key one of which is ‘Staff development to support their own wellbeing and that of students’. Additionally, we’re also a signatory of the Association of Colleges’ (AoC) Mental Health and Wellbeing Charter which comprises 11 commitments to staff and students. We recognise that staff and student wellbeing are intrinsically linked and that good student wellbeing is dependent on good staff wellbeing. This doesn’t just mean our student-facing colleagues, but the entire staff population who each day, directly and indirectly, help us to transform lives through education.

  • Please tell us about the Four Pillars of Wellbeing and how these relate to the workplace environment (feel free to reword this question)

The whole college approach and AoC charter, guide and provide a strong evidence-based foundation for our work. However, we wanted to ensure that we covered all elements that could possibly affect the wellbeing of our staff whilst also having a simple framework to enable us to talk about wellbeing and structure our offering.

‘The Four Pillars of Wellbeing’; physical, mental, social and financial, is a well-known model but we also added an extra one, organisational! Whilst mapping out our approach and drafting our strategy, it’s become very clear that this model will allow us to go much deeper and offer a greater level of support. Many employee wellbeing strategies focus, quite rightly, on mental and physical wellbeing. However, social and financial are often forgotten. Cultivating strong professional relationships, a sense of belonging and inclusion are vital. Working under the social wellbeing pillar will allow us to do this. Financial wellbeing is always important, but now more than ever with the cost of living crisis and rising energy bills. Under this pillar, we’ve already provided a number of initiatives and we’re currently reviewing our benefits offering and looking at other ways to support including through financial literacy training and in-work progression.

  • Recently you’ve been working on a project focussed on gaining staff voice to inform your wellbeing approach. You’ve also been looking at ways to measuring staff satisfaction with the wellbeing offer.  Tell us how you have approached this piece of work. 

During January and February 2023, we ran a staff wellbeing briefing and feedback project for our leaders and managers. The aim of this project was to find out how our teams are doing and how they think we’re doing as an organisation in supporting wellbeing. In the sessions, we spoke to our leaders and managers about staff wellbeing, informed them of what’s already in place, let them know about our plans for the future but most importantly gave them and their teams an opportunity to be involved. After the briefings, we provided them with a wellbeing meeting pack including a slide deck, some briefing notes and a link to a wellbeing survey. We asked them to facilitate a session with their teams and to provide feedback on behalf of the team via the survey.

  • What was the engagement like with your Wellbeing Briefings? What feedback did you receive?

Engagement was excellent. There was acknowledgement of the initiatives we have in place and we also received some very constructive and useful feedback which will help to inform the direction of our strategy. Just a few examples of some themes that emerged included: requests for more support and encouragement to be active during the working day, lots of ideas about how we could further improve our mental wellbeing support offering, our staff wanting to network, team build and socialise more, requests for more benefits that support wellbeing and more communication to support staff wellbeing.

  • What are your priorities for the months ahead?

I’m currently drafting our employee wellbeing strategy and an action plan. Once this is done, I’ll be engaging with departments to support them to draft local action plans. Each of our departments and campuses have their own personality and wellbeing priorities, so it’s important for them to be able to interpret and deliver the strategy in a way that’s relevant and meaningful for them. I’m also working with our Communications team to draft a plan to keep staff informed of all things wellbeing.

  • What does it mean for Luminate to be a Mindful Employer?

I found it invaluable. It’s really helpful to hear about the great things that others in the city are doing. The events in particular have been excellent and I always come away feeling inspired and full of ideas. It’s great to be part of such a supportive network of like-minded individuals who are doing the same things and facing the same challenges.

  • What would you say to someone who is considering becoming part of the Leeds Mindful Employer Network?

Just do it!

Thank you to Claire for sharing her insights with the Leeds Mindful Employer Network.

If you would like to find out more about the work Luminate Education Group are doing please contact

Find out more about Leeds Mindful Employer Network on our web page, or contact[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]