UNISON East Midlands keeps on learning

For many of us, 2020 was a long, difficult, year. Whether in public-facing roles, working from home, or on furlough, public service workers have borne the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic, and it was only natural to be feeling tired, stressed, or down. That’s why UNISON learning rep Jayne Barry decided to lift people’s spirits by organising a Christmas wreath making course for members across Derbyshire. Working with instructor Sam, she was able to run a refreshing and enjoyable session.

Some things had to change, of course. Jayne explains:

This was the second time we had run this course but the first time on line. I have to say I was very apprehensive as to whether it would work but there was no need, it all went fantastically. With the superb support from the region’s Union Learning Fund local organiser Ella the information got out to people seamlessly.

100 members from across Derbyshire and from the various sectors of UNISON took part and the feedback was excellent with 97 people returning their feedback form (that in itself was amazing), all comments were positive and around how the course had helped their mental health and wellbeing plus giving them something to look forward to during the year of the pandemic.

I have to thank the Union Learning Fund in supporting these courses by assisting in the funding of them, without that we could not have delivered the course to so many. Believe it or not we had over 360 applications for the course – that again bowled me over.

I am so proud to be part of a union that puts its members at the heart of it. Thank you UNISON.

The participants loved it, telling Jayne:

The session was amazing and thoroughly enjoyable. It is such a shame that we could not be together in person, but the Zoom was fine, and I had no issues during the event. It was my first time at anything of this kind and I will definitely be taking part of more of these. Fantastic for Unison to hold such events and thank you to Sam, you were brilliant.


I really enjoyed it. For someone that hasn’t had much ‘me’ time for quite a while it gave me something to look forward to. It was fun, sparked my creative juices and was such a boost to my mental well being. I’m really glad you organised the session. It was lovely to see what everyone else made too and the instructor Sam and Jayne were lovely.

That’s only a taster of the fantastic work that’s been going on across the region. Lockdown has seen the East Midlands reach even more learners that last year with over 2000 learners accessing a range of courses.

Popular new workshops included: Working with Cancer, ADHD awareness, Special Educational Needs Awareness, Positive Behaviour Support in schools, Youth Mental Health awareness. Plus, after consultation with our union learning reps and learning coordinators, the East Midlands ran two new courses (Dealing with Difficult Phone Calls and Prevention and Management of Violence and Aggression) aimed at supporting service user facing members with the increased pressure both they, and their clients, are under during lockdown but also following years of austerity. Whether in call centres, parks and gardens, housing associations, and local authority, school, or health and social care settings, our members appreciated learning and sharing strategies and meeting with others who were experiencing similar pressures.

An ongoing successful initiative, working in partnership with education providers has, so far, seen over 200 people take literacy and numeracy assessments, run specifically for UNISON members to help them get on at work. More than half of those have already enrolled on Maths and English courses!

See what’s happening in your region

The Union Learning Fund, which Jayne mentions, is currently under threat.

Find out how you can help the campaign to save it