Printing charity ramps up free helpline to support SME staff

The Printing Charity has responded to the coronavirus crisis by fast-tracking the rollout of its confidential telephone helpline service to SMEs looking for a free emotional and practical support service for their employees.

Companies need to sign up for their staff to access the free helpline service
Companies need to sign up for their staff to access the free helpline service

“When we first started thinking about the helpline, a couple of years ago, we were focused on how can we support our industry. We know that it is made up of typically smaller organisations and we started to think about what those businesses do and don’t have access to,” said the charity’s CEO Neil Lovell.

“It was apparent that extra employee support, so employee assistant programmes (EAP) like this helpline, are commonplace in large organisations, less so in businesses with fewer than 50 people, which are unlikely to have a structured support programme. So, that’s why we started the service at the end of last year."

Currently, around 40 print companies including SMEs and some larger groups are signed up to the service. Between them they give access to more than 10,000 people, made up of their employees and immediate family members.

The service was trialled over the autumn and then businesses in a range of shapes and sizes were slowly added over the following months to stress test the offering, which, pre-lockdown, also included face-to-face counselling.

“It’s the simplicity that’s key,” said Lovell.

“It’s a freephone number they can call and talk to a trained counsellor, separate from their employer, completely confidential, nothing goes back to the employer at all, it’s just here to help people.”

The Charity initially wanted to manage the rollout gradually, but in light of the coronavirus crisis and its wider impact on society and business, it decided to expand the service to the entire industry immediately.

The confidential helpline offers 24/7 confidential emotional crisis telephone support “in the moment” via British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) accredited counsellors. From 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday it also offers a wide range of practical advice on debt and finance, housing, employment issues, amongst others.

The Printing Charity Helpline service is provided by an experienced, third-party employee assistance programme (EAP) provider.

According to Lovell, companies can rollout the support service to their employees in as a little as a week, sometimes quicker, from initial enquiry, depending on the level of information that is available.

The service is completely free to companies and their employees, all costs are covered by the Printing Charity. However, a company director has to sign the business up to the service for staff to be able to access it. Once signed up, employees' immediate family members in their household can also use the helpline.

“It’s something the sector desperately needs, it’s underserved with employee support. So, if there are organisations out there that have maybe furloughed staff and are waiting for the next wave to hit, well, now’s the time to get this service in place for their employees,” said Lovell.

“All sorts of things are storing up and I do think we will see the knock-on effect of this on emotional wellbeing for many months as each subsequent wave hits.”

Lovell said the charity had maintained its full team so that as well as ramping-up the onboarding of SMEs to the helpline, it could continue to directly support the circa 400 individuals that are regular beneficiaries, process applications for financial assistance, and support its two sheltered homes.

For more information on the Printing Charity Helpline and how your business can sign-up to the free service, email



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