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OK9 Wellbeing and trauma support dogs

Funded: June 2023

Blue Light Card Foundation has granted funds to provide support dogs for services outside of the police

Sectors supported: Fire & Rescue service, Ambulance, MoD Police and HMP Prison service

Oscar Kilo, the National Police Wellbeing Service, exists to provide world-class wellbeing support for police officers and staff. They have a demanding and sometimes dangerous job, and in many roles are frequently exposed to trauma. In recent years, police forces around the country have recognised the value of dogs in helping officers and staff with their wellbeing.

When a dog is introduced to the workplace, the atmosphere immediately changes and people are often compelled to interact with them. Evidence shows that interacting with dogs in this way stimulates oxytocin – a hormone promoting feelings of trust, affection and security. Oxytocin has also been found to assist in reducing cortisol levels naturally, and, in doing so, reducing feelings of stress and anxiety.

These interactive sessions provide light relief from the rigours of the job, and the dogs encourage people to talk by creating a calming environment free of expectation and judgement.

The dog handlers are also mental health first aiders or trained peer supporters who are ideally placed to listen, enable difficult conversations and provide signposting to support if required.

Since the launch of the OK9 project in a handful of police forces, it has expanded nationally, with 190 dogs and representation from 32 police forces, fire and rescue and ambulance services. OK9 fully backs the training and ongoing support needed to fulfil the role. The safety of colleagues and the welfare of the dogs is top priority.

This funding from Blue Light Card Foundation will allow the placement of more dogs in non-police Blue Light services, widening the reach of this valuable support to more of the Blue Light community.

Visit their website to read more about OK9. www.oscarkilo.org.uk/services/wellbeing-dogs