The manager of a Bury school has spoken about the importance of speaking up and creating an open environment where people feel safe to air their concerns.

Jayne Rowlands is the manager of Excel and Exceed, the school based within Cygnet Hospital Bury which serves four child and adolescent mental health Services wards.

October was the sixth annual Speak Up Month, which is led by the National Guardian’s Office, and provides an opportunity to raise awareness and highlight the difference which "Freedom to Speak Up" is making.

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Jayne said: “For me it was about doing something that could make a difference and drive change.

“Too often we hear ‘rumblings’ about things people are not happy about or things they think are not working in the best way.

“All too often no action was taken, and I felt this was often driven by a fear of speaking out.

"The small stuff was quickly becoming the big stuff if it wasn’t dealt with.”

Jayne said that while staff are generally confident in reporting safeguarding issues, often lower level concerns were going unreported.

She added: “When I have heard people complaining and questioned whether they have raised it, the response would often be ‘what is the point?’ or ‘I’m worried it will affect my relationship with my manager'.

“From my perspective it is about saying there is a point, and change is driven from the bottom up.

“Being an ambassador meant I would be able to get the message out there that it is a positive not a negative; that it is safe and non-judgemental and ultimately it is for the greater good for service users and for employees.”

The theme for this year’s Speak Up Month was "breaking barriers" and raised awareness of some of the issues which can prevent people from speaking up and exploring how these can be broken down.

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Jayne added: “Since taking on the role I have been approached by several members of staff for a variety of reasons.

“Dealing with relatively small issues at a local level means that we don’t have a bigger issue to deal with later down the line.

“I feel the impact of this upon patient and staff wellbeing cannot be underestimated. Better staff wellbeing ultimately leads to better staff care.”

One incident Jayne dealt with concerned a member of staff who was reportedly repeatedly mis-gendering a service user, despite reminders from colleagues and other professionals.

The matter was dealt with and the outcome was positive and further improvements were able to be embedded at the service.

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Jayne said: “Reflecting upon this incident of speaking up resulted in myself and the school thinking about how we could support in ensuring a better understanding of LGBTQ+ and the negative impact of using the wrong gender/pronouns/names upon mental health. 

“We worked with students in school to create training which was delivered to both students and support staff. 

"This training looked at unconscious bias and the need to challenge this and it is envisaged that giving people a better understanding will improve outcomes for service users and create more inclusive working environments for our staff.

“All of this transpired from one conversation whereby a member of staff felt confident enough to trust our process and to speak up.”