Campaigning, influencing, and creating member champions

15 December 2022, Ross Matthewman, Head of Policy and Campaigns, CIEH

Blue neon path across endless labyrinth

The last six months at CIEH has been a rollercoaster ride as we've navigated a frenzied policy landscape alongside a political world that seems to have tripped from crisis to crisis.

If you consider that the breadth of policy areas we are heavily focussed on is like playing four different football matches at once, the political upheaval is like the goal posts on each pitch being repeatedly moved.

With the UK now on its third Prime Minister of the year, and the Government having hopped between interventionist and libertarian economic models, CIEH has been hard at work developing flexible plans, strategies and content for engagement.

From working closely with our members through our policy advisory panels and listening to their concerns and expertise in our events and our webinars, we know that there are real concerns about the sustainability of the profession, the future of the workforce, and the dangers of the UK Government's approach to deregulation. And there are other concerns too, how strong is the Government’s commitment to enhancing our environment and addressing issues like sewage and air quality? Will our country’s food standards be watered down in new global trade deals being negotiated as we speak? And, of course, what does the tragic death of Awaab Ishak say about the faults in our housing system?

Through extensive engagement, and having commissioned a ComRes public perceptions audit, we also know what the public, MPs, and key external stakeholders, think about environmental health and about CIEH.

The onus is on CIEH to use its internal policy, external affairs and marketing expertise and experience to promote environmental health and raise this myriad of policy issues in the most impactful way. Sometimes that is through visible campaigning, and sometimes that is through behind the scenes influencing. The methods change, but the goal remains the same.

One thing that has become crystal clear is that there is a real opportunity to reintroduce many MPs and Peers to environmental health and the work of environmental health professionals. Whilst there is an appreciation of the individual policy areas vital to our members, there is a knowledge gap about environmental health as the whole package. With another new regime having taken over leadership of the Conservative Party, and a plethora of new government ministers, this is the perfect time for CIEH to press “go” on the strategic engagement plan we have been working on since the summer.

Building on the successful 2019 model, CIEH has brought together our existing key policy lines and campaigning activities into a short but accessible “Manifesto for Environmental Health” designed specifically to briefly introduce political stakeholders to the world of environmental health and CIEH. As we engage with the “new” Government, this will be used to illustrate the importance of our profession and will support our proactive campaigning and ongoing engagement with government at all levels.

But this is only part of our plans for policy and external affairs going forwards. We know that there is a real need to shift focus onto supporting our members themselves in engaging with key stakeholders and in representing their profession. CIEH has begun exploring models of direct member representation, where CIEH creates opportunities for members themselves to sit on external committees, represent CIEH and the profession at events, and speak with authority and experience to policymakers. We will embark on a full review of our stakeholder relationships, reprioritising and identifying opportunities, and then empowering the members of our flagship policy advisory panels to take advantage of these opportunities. CIEH is a proud membership organisation, it is only right that our members are free to represent us and become champions of the profession.

We are also aware that to get a grip on the environmental health workforce crisis we must obtain everything we need to fully understand the landscape. CIEH is absolutely committed to consulting our members on building a new and comprehensive workforce survey that will give us the ammunition to call for change.

Please do make sure that you are signed up to all of CIEH's communications, and are following us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date with our campaigning, media activity, and opportunities to shape our policies.

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