Managers’ Checklist

Continuing professional development (CPD) activities take many forms. It could be attending training that may or may not result in a qualification but could also be learning events such as talks, reading relevant literature/opinion pieces/newsletters, coaching and mentoring or being given developmental opportunities in the form of new responsibilities.

Barriers to accessing CPD in the mental health support workforce

There are some key barriers the mental health support workforce may face when accessing CPD such as:


As the mental health support workforce delivers the bulk of hands-on care some perceive it to be more difficult to release them for CPD activities.


As the lowest banded staff they may have difficulty self-financing if the employer does not cover costs or funding is not available.


The majority of mental health support workforce roles are non-registered and so acquiring CPD activity is not linked to keeping a registration (consequently registered staff can receive priority to access CPD).


Some members of the mental health support workforce may need support with numeracy and literacy.


There is no one resource that holds all mental health careers and the routes into them starting from NHS band 2 and up. Without this it's very difficult to assess options and map CPD activity into a career pathway.


Challenges around time commitments and work responsibilities that those in a more senior post could have more autonomy over.

Further barriers to accessing CPD facing mental health support workers from minority groups

The mental health support workforce is more likely to be diverse/representative of local patient population and we know that those who come from a minority group will face additional barriers to accessing CPD such as:

  • Organisational failures to implement equality policies e.g. lack of transparency on how it is implemented, failure to evaluate or monitor how it is being applied.
  • Systemic discriminatory practices e.g., difficulty challenging career development and access to training because of a lack of/unaware/misunderstanding complaints processes; the nature of power relationships; not wanting to be labelled a ‘trouble-maker’ or damage relationships with colleagues.
  • Lack of support and career advancement for minority staff although where support is offered although positive can also be overwhelming to be out in the spotlight without preparation.
  • Formal learning lacking a wide cultural focus and being harder to access due to a lack of familiarity from minority groups.
  • For disabled staff not having equal access, or increased difficulty in access, as a result of illness
  • Favouritism e.g., ‘hand-picking’ staff for promotion with interviews ‘just a formality’, staff from dominant group more likely to be listened to and have more influence.
  • Reluctance to pursue education opportunities due to perceived intensity and structure of the course.
  • Low morale – this is based on lived and seen experiences such as:
    • losing out on jobs to less qualified candidates that belong to the dominant group – seeing ‘return on investment’ for attending training as therefore low
    • not being trusted to take on certain tasks that those that belong to the dominant group are
    • not having the skills or knowledge to negotiate the system – unfamiliarity with professional discourse and buzzwords etc
    • lack of social support and/or inadequate mentoring/coaching
    • the lack of colleagues with shared backgrounds for mutual support that share learning and exposure to opportunities
    • lack of role models in senior positions that share a similar background.

Source: The Diversity Project (2021) National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, Section 3 - Review and analysis of the literature

The following checklist acts as a starting place to ensure all is being done to minimise the barriers the mental health support workforce may face when accessing CPD. We recommend you create, or build on, current action plans.

checklist Speak to your HR team/check your staff intranet: To Do List

  • Understand criteria such as study leave and ensure you apply this fairly amongst all your staff.
  • Understand what funding is available (both for training offered internally that may be charged to a department by a corporate HR team and also for training purchased from an external provider).

  • Understand what the responsibilities are of the manager within this policy.
  • Ensure your staff are empowered to raise issues about their CPD and understands the organisation’s policy that allows them to do so – note the importance of the informal process stages before formal
  • Handle conversations with sensitivity and understand barriers to raising issues; there may be difficulty with power relationships, staff concerned about being seen as a ‘troublemaker’ or damage to working relationships with their colleagues and manager.
  • Understand the role and remit of the organisation’s Freedom to Speak Up Guardian(s).

  • The Workforce Race Equality Standard report can allow you to benchmark views of your staff to national standard. See indicator 7 ‘Percentage of staff believing that their trust provides equal opportunities for career progression or promotion’. The 2020 report shows that every year from 2015 to 2019 the percentage of BME staff believing there was equal opportunity was lower when compared to their white counterparts. If you are white then there may be something you are not seeing when it comes to assessing if equal access is in place.

  • Ensure staff know what is on offer and support them to engage.
  • Be sensitive that where support is offered, this can be seen as positive but it can also be overwhelming to be put in the spotlight without preparation.

  • Ensure staff know what is on offer and support them to engage.
  • Be aware of inappropriate or inadequate mentoring programmes that do not address the needs of minority staff for example regarding language and culture.
  • Be aware of the representation of mentors/coaches and that staff can access someone from the same minority group/background if they wish.

checklist Review your own practice: To Do List