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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 27 March 2006

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Call for courtesy as pregnancy stress levels soar

MIND the Bump report reveals Britons are ignoring needs of mums-to-be.  A new report released last week calls for greater consideration to be given to mums-to-be, as 67% of pregnant women cite rude and discourteous behaviour as a growing source of anxiety during pregnancy.  The 'Mind the Bump' study, commissioned by London Underground (LU), examined the treatment of pregnant women across the UK to mark the launch of its Baby on Board badges, which encourage people to give up their seats for pregnant passengers on the Tube.

The national study found that expectant mums currently feel few allowances are made for their condition in day-to-day life. From restaurants that ignore dietary requirements to bosses and colleagues who fail to accept that pregnant employees have to slow down, the research highlights the need for people to behave more considerately towards mums-to-be. Key findings include:-

* 38% of pregnant women felt nervous and worried when shopping because of the boisterous and pushy behaviour of fellow shoppers;

* 31% frequently felt they had to avoid public transport for fear of having to stand for the duration of the journey;

* Almost 1 in 5 found staff in restaurants to be rude and unaccommodating of their dietary requirements;

* A further 16% felt their needs were overlooked by employers;

* Women are working longer into their pregnancies than ever before, with almost half working past the recommended cut off point of 36 weeks.

The research also showed that commuters in particular are failing to offer much-needed assistance or extend courtesy to mums-to-be, with pregnant passengers standing for an average of 5 stops before they were offered a seat, and 35% of mums-to-be never being offered a seat during pregnancy.

The roll out of the Baby on Board initiative follows preliminary research and a successful trial carried out in summer 2005, and is designed to help women feel more confident and comfortable in using the Tube during pregnancy, and enable passengers to easily identify those in need of a seat.

Backing the initiative and commenting on the implications for the wellbeing of pregnant women, Dame Karlene Davis, General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said:- "Offering assistance and support to pregnant women is not just a matter of courtesy; it's a matter of health. Pregnancy is stressful enough without extra fears and worries about coping with difficult and intimidating situations when out and about.  "The Baby on Board badges are a great idea for pregnant women and fellow passengers alike - they will help people identify those in need of a seat and in turn make journeys less traumatic for mums-to-be."

LU Marketing Communications Manager, Elizabeth Norris, said:- "Our research found that a vast number of mums-to-be find standing on the Tube throughout their pregnancy very difficult, but one in three are too embarrassed to ask a fellow passenger to give up their seat.  In the early stages of pregnancy in particular, it's difficult for people to identify pregnant women, who often feel tired, sick and even faint during these first few months, so being offered a seat makes tube travel safer and more comfortable.  The Baby on Board badge is designed to help women at all stages of pregnancy feel more confident in using the Tube, and make journeys less awkward for pregnant women and fellow passengers."

Further findings of the study included:-

* In addition to their impact on their health, pregnant women are losing out financially, with a whopping £49.5 million spent every year on taxis and private vehicles by expectant mums who are unable to face standing on public transport;

* 32% had feared for their health and safety at least once during their pregnancy because of the behaviour of others around them;

* London is the least pregnancy-friendly place in the UK, with 45% of London mums having been shocked by the lack of consideration they were shown while pregnant. Wales was revealed to be the most pregnancy-friendly area of the country, with 6% expectant mums experiencing inconsiderate treatment.

LU Baby on Board badges are available from the LU Customer Services Centre (0845 330 9880), health authorities, GPs and midwives.  The initiative is part of a wider 'Better Behaviour' campaign by LU, which aims to improve the experience of travelling on the tube by encouraging passengers to be more aware of their actions and surroundings.

Fear of failure and suspicion

SENIOR managers in the North West are blaming an atmosphere of corporate caution for the obstructions they face when it comes to making decisions. According to the results of surveys by the Chartered Management Institute, managers in the region are not afraid of decision-making, but they are battling against a culture of suspicion and fear.

The findings, which are taken from research projects conducted over the past 16 months, show that 71% of managers in the region believe their organisation’s culture has an impact on decision-making. Asked to identify the dominant culture in their organisation, 22% spoke of workplace environments dominated by secrecy and suspicion. Only a minority suggested they have the freedom to make decisions, with 10% referring to an ‘entrepreneurial’ culture.  With only 7% of managers saying that making decisions at work is difficult, it is clear they are not afraid to make choices. However, the research studies highlight cultural barriers can hinder the decision-making process.

Key findings include:-

* Fear of failure: 24% of managers in the North West say their organisation’s culture is ‘risk averse’. Asked about decisions that have been made against their better judgement, 24% said it was the result of bureaucratic processes.

* Lack of trust: Only 13% of managers say their organisation exhibits a trusting culture and 8% are given ‘sign off’ responsibility

* Reactive not responsive: 41% claim their organisation’s culture is reactive and 7% are wary of the ‘suspicious’ nature of employers. With these views in mind it is no wonder 30% of managers in the region suggest their organisation responds to change in an ad hoc, haphazard, fashion.

According to the results, the region’s managers also care deeply about the impact their decisions have on others. 19% admit to reflecting on decisions, after they have been made. The majority (69%) are more concerned about the impact their decisions have on their employer, with only a tiny minority (2%) admitting their primary concern is their own career.  Demonstrating that they understand the effect decisions can have on others, many managers also expressed a desire to be answerable for the choices they make. 24% suggested that ‘accountability’ is a vital element of decision-making and 7% cited ‘responsibility’.

Jo Causon, director, marketing and corporate affairs at the Chartered Management Institute, says:- “In contrast to populist stereotypes, managers are passionate about the impact their decisions have on others. However, they appear to be working in environments where decision-making is regarded with an element of fear. No one is suggesting that caution should be thrown to the wind, but if morale, performance and productivity are to be improved organisations need to create a culture where decisions can be reached based on empowerment and entrepreneurial spirit.”

Reacting to the findings, the Chartered Management Institute has created a resource for managers to help them make decisions. A series of management checklists, diagnostic tools and general advice is freely available via managers.org.uk/2006.  From 30 March 2006 the micro-site will also host answers to decision-making dilemmas, with advice provided by Sir Michael Bichard, Terry Corby (Accenture), Philip Dewhurst (BNFL) and Andrew Summers (Brandsmiths).

Child's play in the playground

LIVERPOOL youngsters are being encouraged out of the classroom and into the playground.  It is part of a massive drive to get children aged up to 5 out of doors and learning in the fresh air, using the environment to develop their language and communication skills.

Interactive play areas are to be created at Ellergreen Early Years Centre, Kensington Community Infants, The Trinity RC Primary and Barlows Primary school. Pupils from other schools in each area will also benefit from the scheme.  Special equipment, including giant wooden bricks, tyres and ropes, is being installed, funded through the Excellence in Cities programme.  There will also be areas for outdoor storytelling sessions, eating and projects such as den-making.

The City Council wants youngsters attending the network of 24 Children's Centres currently being created across Liverpool to benefit in the same way.

Councillor Jan Clein, assistant executive member for children's services, said:- "Some youngsters spend far too long cooped up indoors at home watching the television or playing computer games.  Encouraging them to take an interest in the outdoor world around them at a young age will stretch their imagination and hopefully become a habit that stays with them for life.  Our Children's Centres offer a brilliant indoor learning environment and we should also make as much use of the outdoor space as we possibly can."

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