Bramley bus driver drives double-decker with own face on as he celebrates mental health support training

A Bramley bus driver will drive a double-decker with his own face on it as he celebrates a mental health support training programme.

By Rebecca Marano
Saturday, 10th October 2020, 11:45 am
Paul Ackroyd, 52, is celebrating 20 years of mental health training with First Bus and Unite.
Paul Ackroyd, 52, is celebrating 20 years of mental health training with First Bus and Unite.

Paul Ackroyd, 52, a driver for First Bus, is raising awareness for a mental health training programme run in partnership with First Bus and Unite the Union.

The specially-designed bus marks the 20th anniversary of the learning programme.

Paul, who is based at the company’s depot in Bramley, has undertaken five courses in the last two years to make sure he knows how to help vulnerable passengers.

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Paul Ackroyd is raising awareness for a mental health training programme run in partnership with First Bus and Unite the Union.

His training has helped him support the journeys of some of the most vulnerable in our society, including dementia sufferers and children with mental health issues.

He said: “I’ve been a bus and coach driver for over 30 years, supporting the journeys of millions of people.

“I’m passionate about providing a welcoming atmosphere on my bus and working in a major city, it’s not uncommon to meet customers who are presenting symptoms of dementia or see parents trying to help their children get through the journey.

“A couple of years ago I started chatting to our lifelong learning representative, Barry. We spoke about how I was interested in accessing the lifelong learning programme and Barry worked with me to help me select the best courses for my interests.

“By being more attuned to customer's concerns and needs, it feels as though I am more able to quickly consider how I can make their journey easier.

“There are initiatives to help people inform us that they need extra support – including journey assistance cards or recognition of sunflower lanyards - and it feels as though the courses provide extra insight into not just realising someone needs a little more help, but also having the ability to see things from their point of view.”

The special bus design is a celebration by First Bus to mark its 20-year lifelong learning partnership with Unite as part of the national Learning at Work Week.

The collaboration between First and Unite is believed to be the longest running workplace learning scheme of its kind, where colleagues get access to hundreds of accredited and informal courses in partnership with Unite.

Mick Dowds, National Chair for Unite the Union in First Bus said: “The lifelong learning partnership entered into by Unite the Union and First Bus is one of the most enduring within the road passenger transport sector. It has delivered educational opportunities, quality advice, guidance and support to tens of thousands of our work colleagues over the last 20 years.

“I believe it to be rare within the bus industry, indeed any industry, to hear of such a robust and continuous partnership. It is testament to the commitment of both the company and the union to ensure that learning is more than job-related skills and is open to all our workers.”