The Bearer - Issue 4 - June 2024

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Business News Industry News

Harwood Park News

We are constantly updating the grounds at Harwood Park by introducing not only new trees, but also replacing existing ones. Over the first weekend in April one such project was undertaken. To remove the box hedging (Buxus) from the main drive and outside of the office and replace it with Japanese Holly (Ilex Crenata). The box caterpillar or box moth has become a major pest, ruining topiary and hedges in a matter of days, originating in Asia the moth is now present across much of the UK.

Staff Updates


The holly will soon be trimmed back to the box shape and with the introduction of the Austin’s Natural Burial Park, we have updated the three maps in the grounds. (one shown below)

Small copies of the map are available for visitors to take.

These are sited not only by the new display boards but also in the waiting room and coffee lounge.

Message from Claire…

As we move into June, we are focussed on the muchanticipated summer months.

Our Groundsmen at Harwood Park are busy renewing, developing and maintaining our extensive Memorial Gardens. Other major projects continue including the new Groundsmen’s building and the ongoing development of our new Head Office in Stevenage High Street.

We have introduced several initiatives to support bereaved families through the grief journey and details of these are featured in this edition of ‘The Bearer’.

We welcome new members of staff to our Team and celebrate the successes and milestones of existing members, with educational achievements, work anniversaries and significant birthdays.

I hope you enjoy catching up on news from Austin’s and Harwood Park.

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Buxus Hedge Row Before The grounds team hard at work placing the Japanese Holly The New Japanese Holly all in place

Austin’s Natural Burial Park

Austin’s Natural Burial Park, which opened this year, is nestled within the serene grounds of Harwood Park Crematorium, offering beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.

The designated Natural Burial Park area is purposefully managed rather than manicured, allowing it to thrive as a natural meadow. Mature London Plane trees have now been planted to foster a biodiverse environment, promoting the growth of native plants, grasses and wildflowers, and attracting local wildlife. This approach creates a tranquil and ecologically rich setting for natural burials.

Update: 74a High Street

Work progresses at pace at 74a High Street as Claire oversees the refurbishment of the old Waitrose building. We are now in Phase II of the development, focusing on the service chapel, arrangement rooms, and chapels of rest. These areas are being carefully designed to provide a serene and comforting environment for our visitors. Stay tuned for more updates over the course of the next few months as we move forward with this exciting transformation.

Stevenage Borough Council: 50th Anniversary

On Thursday 16th May 2024, we were proud to be invited to attend a walking tour of  key town centre locations to celebrate the Council’s history led by Councillor Simon Speller followed by the unveiling of the plaque by the Mayor of Stevenage Councillor, Myla Arceno and the Leader of Stevenage

IT Upgrade: Second Screen Roll Out and New Accounting Package

Ziptech will be installing second monitors to all branch offices imminently. Dual monitors will allow the Funeral Administration team to view multiple documents simultaneously, and reduce the time spent switching between applications. This means essential information can be displayed without crowding a single screen. We will also be replacing our current accountancy software with Xero. During June, Kevin Kelly and key members of staff at head office, including Izzy and Nicola, will receive

Borough Council, Councillor Richard Henry.

It was an honour to be invited to this 50th celebration of Stevenage becoming a borough Council.

training on the application, with an anticipated go-live date of July. This change in software will streamline our financial processes, enhance reporting accuracy, and improve overall efficiency, all while having minimal impact on the day-to-day activities of the administration team.

Progress Update: New Groundsmen’s Building

Work is well under way for the new groundsmen’s building at Harwood Park Crematorium.

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Grief Support Lending Library

We are now including grief support lending library leaflets in all of our brochure packs and displaying posters in local health centres, Doctors surgeries, libraries and local businesses to raise awareness of the free resource we’re offering to the local community. Huge thanks to Amanda, Susannah, Janine and David for supporting the cause and agreeing to be our poster people for the literature.

East and North Hertfordshire Hospital’s Charity

We’re proud to support the East and North Hertfordshire Hospitals’ charity, which is organising a special thank you event for NHS staff on the 5th of July at Lister Hospital. This event is part of the NHS anniversary celebrations, recognising the hard work and dedication of our incredible healthcare professionals. Our contribution reflects our deep appreciation for the tireless efforts of NHS staff, particularly during these challenging times. We are committed to giving back to the community and supporting those who care for us.


Join our charity skydive on a date that suits you and raise funds for projects to benefit patients, visitors and staff at our four hospitals - Hertford County, Lister, Mount Vernon Cancer Centre and New QEII.


Take on an exhilarating ride on the wings of an aeroplane! Bespoke bookings are available, arrange a date that works best for you!


Our most colourful event is back for 2024! Run, walk or skip a 5k or 2.5k route with a colourful twist.


Live bands, DJs and cheering fans will motivate you along the route, which takes you past Westminster Bridge, The London Eye, Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus and Big Ben.


Run 10k around the flat paths of the beautiful Hyde Park to raise funds for your local hospitals.


Take on the swimming, biking, and running event all with famous London landmarks as your backdrop, what better way to motivate you to take on this epic challenge!


Join the return of Run Thorpe Park! Run a 5k or 10k around the rides and rollercoasters inside the fantastic resort and be first in line to enjoy everything it has to offer!


Including our BRAND NEW ‘March for Mount Vernon’ A closed road, UKA, chip-timed 10k and fun runs set in the beautiful grounds

If you would like to get involved, here’s a list of events planned for the remainder of the year.

of Merchant Taylors’ School, Moor Park Golf Course and the Moor Park estate. This is a real community event for all the family!


The stunning 13.1-mile route takes in many of the capital’s world-famous landmarks on closed roads, and four of London’s eight Royal Parks –Hyde Park, The Green Park, St James’s Park and Kensington Gardens


Highlights of the course are the start and finish in the Olympic Stadium, the passage under the Rijksmuseum, the kilometres long side the Amstel and the round through the Vondelpark.


This popular road closed half marathon starts and finishes in front of the iconic Knebworth House with the course taking participants around the beautiful surrounding rural roads.


Starting and finishing within Alton Towers Theme Park this is an event for the entire family. Open to all abilities, you can take on a chip timed 5k, 10k or Half Marathon to earn yourself a unique themed medal before enjoying the incredible rides at the park.


Santa in the City is the perfect way to get you, your friends, and your family into the festive spirit! Every adult runner is provided with a 5-piece Santa Suit (Hat, beard, jacket, trousers & belt), runner number & medal!


Come together with your networks to give a gift to a child spending Christmas in hospital. Spots can be pre-booked on our website to bring your gifts into our magical Christmas Grotto.

Austin’s 2024 Charitable Fund:

Feed Up Warm Up

We’re pleased to announce that donation boxes have been placed in each of our branch offices throughout Hertfordshire, enabling visitors make contributions to our 2024 supported charity, Feed Up Warm Up. At the end of the year, we will collect and tally all donations, ensuring that every contribution goes directly to supporting this invaluable charity. Feed Up Warm Up provides essential services to those in need, offering food, warmth, and support to the homeless and vulnerable in our community. Together, we can make a difference.

Hertford office passes NAFD IFSO Inspection

We are pleased to announce that our Hertford Office, which opened its doors to families in 2023, successfully passed the NAFD IFSO inspection. IFSO accreditation is recognised as a badge of quality and excellence within the industry, ensuring the public can choose an IFSOinspected funeral director with confidence.

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BOOKS TOAVAILABLE BORROW In times of loss, words can be a source of solace For more information visit: OUR SELECTION OF BOOKS INCLUDE: Adult Grief Resources Children's Books on Loss Stories of Resilience AVAILABLE AT: AUSTIN’S, HIGH ST, STEVENAGE HARWOOD PARK CREMATORIUM
Grief LendingSupport Library

Celebrating the Funeral Officiants: Nicola Martin-Davis

At the heart of a funeral service, stands the Funeral Officiant who guides families through the process of honouring a loved one’s life. With empathy and eloquence, Funeral Officiants commemorate the individuality of the deceased, offering comfort and support to their loved ones.

Nicola Martin-Davis has worked as a Funeral Officiant for Austin’s and other local funeral directors for 17 years. Nicola’s commitment to honouring each life story with a personalised, heartfelt service has touched countless families. Her approach is characterised by genuine compassion, deep listening, and tributes that resonate with meaning and grace.

Tell us a little about your background and what inspires you to do the work you do. Since 1979, every single year of my professional life has led me to where I am today. Although I had the appropriate academic background and professional work experience, it took years to feel adequately ‘qualified’ to help grieving people emotionally and spiritually. Being a funeral officiant is an important, complex, painful, emotional, and powerfully rewarding role in our community. What it isn’t, is easy.

colours. That crystal to me, is God. The tragedy is that everyone believes the colour they see is the only colour. I have Judaism and Buddhism in my ancestry and I have lived in the Middle East. Buddhist teachings for me blend beautifully with Christianity but then I don’t view syncretism as a threat. There are diverse paths to God.

Nicola Martin-Davis

My teenage years were spent in the Middle East. I witnessed civil unrest and revolution, but it taught me from an early age, that my life must have purpose. Returning to the UK in 1979, I trained as a nurse and specialised in elderly rehabilitation, District Nursing, end of life care and I sometimes covered night duties for the Marie Curie Foundation, providing respite for families. One patient called Rose, who had been a suffragette, ignited an enquiring flame in me by asking me to read her religious and Philosophical books every night. To me, faith is like a white light shining through a crystal, splitting into a spectrum of different

An injury forced me to leave nursing and I worked as a copywriter to fund my education in psychology. I worked in an FE college as a lecturer having returned to university to study for my Certificate in Education. I helped people with complex issues complete a programme of accredited study. A college contract with the Home Office moved me into the rehabilitation of offenders. I trained for mission and ministry and was ordained in 2001. I chose to explore full-time funeral ministry in 2006 when my Bishop encouraged me to do what I do best - help people. I have been taking funerals since 2007 but it took a long time for Funeral Directors to trust me. In those days, it was much harder to penetrate a world owned by Church Parishes, Registrars and Humanists.

I soon realized that some families wanted just a nod to faith so that more time was available to celebrate the lives of their loved ones. From the very start I have always included as much or as little religious content as families want. It was important for families to tell me what they need rather than me dictate what they must have.

I believe the funeral service marks the first day of everyone’s healing. Without that firmly in my heart and mind, I wouldn’t have been of any use for as long as I have. As I walk into a service, I say to myself; this could be my loss. I am fortunate to have a phenomenal memory, which helps me connect with everyone in the chapel without needing to read a single scripted word bar the eulogy! Today, I continue to conduct funerals according to families’ wishes, including completely non-religious services, because I am a funeral officiant first and foremost.

Talk to us about the service you offer the bereaved I have always aimed to support people in grief not just before and during the service, but afterward. Now, with the advent of social media, my outreach has widened. Harnessing all my experience, both professionally and academically, I wrote a grief journal, which I offer to all my families free of charge.

If a family wants me there to say a few words when they inter the ashes of someone significant to their world, it feels morally wrong to present an invoice. It is a natural completion of the funeral service and I believe it should be honoured with humanity and compassion, again, free of charge.

In your opinion, how has the profession changed over the years. Since the pandemic, I have noticed an increase in funeral celebrancy. Many new celebrants soon realize that it must be a dedicated, vocational community role and so return to their previous careers. It isn’t easy but it is

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amazing and if you have a heart for helping people who are broken, it is the best job in the world. Helping people is the biggest and best part of me and has been my entire career life of 45 years.

What role do you believe technology has in the future of funeral services?

I built my own website; I record meditation podcasts and I make short videos of support. I am constantly learning new skills. While I have embraced social media to widen my reach, I believe the use of some newer technology in this profession needs to be viewed with caution – like the use of artificial intelligence which is tragically creeping into funeral services. Writing a eulogy is a beautiful and heartfelt collaboration between the officiant and a family. Whether I write it, or families write it and run it past me, it matters not, artificial intelligence is not appropriate. A robot can never replace human empathy, love and the emotional cost of loss. If families are having A.I. incorporated into a service, they have a right to know.

How do you personally cope with the regular exposure to grief and loss.

For me, humour is a great leveller. I have coped because, as I always say, I am 90% serious and 10% silly. I have known great loss myself. I lost my father when I was in my mid-20s, and I know what it feels like to see life as pointless without someone in it. I would have given anything to have just 10 more minutes with my dad, and I have never lost that feeling. Every time I meet a family, I look at them and see the pain etched on their faces and feel it – because I have never forgotten my own.

Nicola is active on Facebook and has a website which can be found here:

Next edition we will be talking to civil celebrant Charlotte Roscow


New Medical Examiner System to be Enforced from 9th September 2024

The Under Secretary of State for the Department for Health and Social Care, has confirmed that the changes to the Medical Examiner System will take effect from 9th September.

To ensure a consistent level of service for our families, we will provide you with updates and clear guidance well in advance of 9th September

In the meantime, if you have not already done so, we encourage all team members to watch the video linked in the email Claire issued on 30th April. Please speak to your line manager if you would like to this be resent to you. Additionally, if you have any questions please speak to David Hall.

Local authorities to visit funeral homes across England

Following the police investigation into Legacy Independent Funeral Directors in Hull, the government has asked local authorities to carry out visits to Funeral Directors’ premises across England and Wales. SAIF and NAFD are advising the government on a format for these visits. In the meantime, Austin’s welcomes the opportunity this presents to demonstrate the quality and standard of our premises and practices, and the high level of care our deceased receive while in our care.

Registration Service Fee – Increase in Charges

The General Register Office have recently announced an increase to several civil registration fees, including the cost of copy death certificates. These fees were laid in Parliament on 7th May under The Registration of Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Civil Partnerships (Fees and Records) (Amendment) Regulations 2024 and came into force on 28th May 2024. From 28th May the fees for death certificates will increase from £11 to £12.50.

Austin’s Staff Breakfast:

Tuesday 11th June, 7.30am – 8.00am arrival. Lolo’s Café, Stevenage

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Guiding grieving families with compassion and professionalism

At Austins, we have a team of long-standing funeral conductors whose dedication and professionalism have earned the trust and respect of the families we serve. Many families return to us time and again, specifically requesting the same conductor, which speaks volumes about the exceptional service and compassionate care they provide. This ongoing relationship is a testament to the strong bonds our conductors form with the families, ensuring a comforting and personalised experience during their time of need.

The role of the funeral conductor is a complex one; requiring a sometimes conflicting skillsets and abilities, and encompassing a variety of responsibilities that extend far beyond merely coordinating the logistics of a funeral service. Whilst the role itself is a multi-faceted one, our funeral conductors’ primary goal is to provide support, guidance and care to grieving families during one of the most challenging days of their lives.

The day prior to the funeral service, our conductors will speak personally with the family to reassure, counsel and comfort, discuss the arrangements in place, address any questions or concerns they may have and ensure that any additional wishes and preferences are handled appropriately, and with care and professionalism.

On the day of the funeral, the nominated conductor for each family will ensure every detail of the funeral of their loved one - such as the care and transfer of the deceased, the funeral bearing team, flower provisions, orders of service, escorting the family to the service, committal and wake, venue requirements, liaison with the funeral minister or officiant, and service music - is brought together seamlessly and executed with meticulous detail.

During the funeral procession our conductors are visible yet discreet in their role, leading the funeral procession in a dignified and respectful manner, and during the service and committal they will coordinate with officiants so that the service follows the agreed-upon order, and work with a calm and assured presence ensuring that the final part of the service is conducted with the utmost respect and sensitivity by keeping a watchful eye on the family and stepping in to guide where needed, allowing the family to focus on their loved ones.

At Austin’s we are incredibly proud of each of our funeral conductors, knowing the service they provide is compassionate, supportive professional and deeply impactful, helping families navigate their grief and honour their loved ones in a meaningful way. They offer invaluable support and work tirelessly to ensure that the funeral service is a fitting tribute, allowing families to say their final goodbyes with dignity and peace.

A huge thank you to all the Conductors at Austin’s for all you do for the deceased and their loved ones.

Staff Breakfast at Lolo’s

On Tuesday 19th March, staff from Harwood Park Crematorium and Austin’s Funeral Directors got together before work for breakfast at Lolo’s Café. We were joined by Shane Coles, founder of Feed Up Warm Up, our sponsored Charity for 2024. Shane gave a short talk on why he set up the charity, along with details on how to volunteer and donate.

Further details about this great charity which provides essential support to our local community, can be found here

Stevenage Borough Under 14’s win Precision Pass Tournament 2024

Austin’s are proud sponsors of the Stevenage Borough Football Club Under 14’s team who recently won the Precision Pass Tournament 2024. Pictured here in the main photo is Jackie Brown’s son Wayne (far left) along with her grandson Charlie (fourth from the right) celebrating their win at the Arsenal Emirates football ground where the championship final was held on Sunday 26th May. Congratulations boys!

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Photo Competition Competition Winner is Stuart!

A £25 Gift voucher is on it’s way to you. Thank you to all that submitted photos for this edition:



Wishes - Happy Birthday to: JULY




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(Gold Card)
Kevin 10th June Nick 16th June Chelsea 29th June
Stuart Jane 4th July Janine 5th July Vee 9th July Kerry 14th July AUGUST Kath 4th August Scott 10th August Kevin 12th August
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Austin’s Staff Breakfast: Tuesday 11th June, 7.30am – 8.00am arrival. Lolo’s Café, Stevenage
Amanda Paine Special Mention: Chelsea for capturing this beautiful image of the Northern Nights across a starry night.


Work Anniversaries

Theresa 3 year anniversary on 1st June

Kelly 3 year anniversary on 26th July

Scott 1 year anniversary on 26th July

Sharon 7 year anniversary on 29th August

Kevin 6 year anniversary on 11th June

Izzy 5 year anniversary on 31st July

Michael 2 year anniversary on 8th August

David 2 year anniversary on 11th July

Sam 5 year anniversary on 1st July

Arlen 6 year anniversary on 20th August


Reece Attfield joined us on the 18th March as Funeral Assistant working with the Operations Team.

LAFD Awards Ceremony and AGM

Crematorium Administrator Lisa Bobb and Funeral Administration Manager Amanda McArthur attended the LAFD Dinner and AGM evening on 23rd May to collect their Cert FAA Certificates.  They were accompanied by Paul McArthur, Claire Austin, Peter Hope, Gary Ford and David and Kerry Hall.

Maggie’s Milestone Birthday!

PA to Managing Director, Maggie Bashforth celebrated a milestone birthday on 19th May. She enjoyed a meal at Veyso’s in Hertford with Claire, Amanda, Tina, Julie, Kerry and Sharon.

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Mediation Evening at Hertford

Back in April, staff attended an evening of guided meditation at the Hertford branch office, led by Funeral Officiant The Reverend Nicola Martin Davis. Not everyone had experienced meditation before, but we all agreed it was a fabulous evening. Nicola kindly handed out amethyst stones at the end of the session, and all attendees expressed that they would most definitely attend again.

Back in April, Funeral Conductor

Michael Bryan enjoyed a tank driving experience with his son Denham and two brothers-in-law Rod and Dek. He spent the day riding around the fields of Market Harborough in a tank and visiting the tank museum. He says it was a thoroughly enjoyable day; the best thing he’s ever done and if we ever need a driver for a tank funeral –he’s our man.

Photos by Stuart McQueen

Stuart submitted a number of stunning images for the photo competition. Stuart clearly is talented and has a good eye for photos. Here’s a selection of his work, some of which were taken at Harwood Park Crematorium.

Saturday 17th August 2024

Hold the date for the social event of the year! The Austin’s annual staff summer barbeque. Claire and Peter look forward to welcoming all Austin’s and Harwood Park staff and their families from 12 noon on Saturday 17th August 2024 Invitations will be sent in due course.

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Michael’s tank experience
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AZALEA POPPY DAHLIA ROSE LILY DAFFODIL BLUEBELL PEONY MARIGOLD AMARYLLIS JASMINE DAISY Word Search 14 ? 28 19 1 26 23 8 9 6 7 1 5 4 4 6 3 1 2 9 5 3 7 6 5 3 2 6 1 5 3 5 7 4 2 9

WELL BEING AT WORK Spotlight on…

5 Ways to Wellbeing

Improving your mental health when you’re at work can feel like a challenge, especially if you work in a busy or stressful environment. But the 5 ways to wellbeing offer some simple steps which you can do every single day.

Step 1 – Connect

Connecting with others can help us feel close to people and valued for who we are. Being social means different things for different people –some might prefer being in quieter situations with one other person whilst others might like being in big groups.

Here are some ways you could make a connection:

• If you feel comfortable, speak to someone new.

• Ask how someone’s weekend was and listen when they respond.

• Put 5 minutes aside to find out how a colleague is doing.

• Give a colleague a lift to work or share the journey home with them.

Step 2 – Get active

There are lots of different things you can do to be a bit more active. Many people find that physical activity helps maintain positive mental health and studies have shown that getting active can help with sleeping better, have happier moods and reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and racing thoughts.

You don’t have to run marathons or train every day at the gym you could :-

• Take the stairs rather than the lift.

• Go for a walk at lunchtime or after work.

• Walk into work, maybe with a colleague.

• Organise a work sporting activity.

• Do some stretches in the morning when you get out of bed or even during the day if you have been sitting for a long period of time.

Step 3 – Take Notice

Taking notice of yourself being aware of how you’re feeling and understanding what triggers your feelings of stress and/or anxiety.

Savouring “the moment” can also help you feel more positive about life, taking some time to enjoy the moment and environment around you, being in the present.

• Have a “clear the clutter” day.

• Take a different route on your journey to or from work.

• Get a plant for your workspace.

• Visit a new place for lunch.

Step 4 - Learn

Every day’s a school day, we are always learning new things, often without realising it. Learning and developing can boost your self-esteem and sometimes, setting goals can help you

to feel more productive and more in control of your life.

• Sign up for a class.

• Do a crossword or Sudoku.

• Learn a language.

• Read a book or the news.

Step 5 – Give

Is there anything you can do today to be kind or helpful to someone else. Studies show that people who help others are more likely to rate themselves as happy. You could try:

• Making a cup of tea for a colleague.

• Offering to help a colleague with something.

• Introducing yourself to a new starter to help them feel more at ease.

• Seeing if there are any volunteering initiatives open at work.

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Supporting Mental Health: Spotlight on Mind Mid Herts

At Austin’s Funeral Directors, we recognize the emotional challenges that come with our profession. The nature of our work often places us in

The Grief Garden Path

We are pleased to further support our families and the wider local community during their times of grief. In addition to offering a selection of books to help navigate the grief process, which are available to borrow from our Lending Libraries at Harwood Park Crematorium and Austin’s High Street Stevenage branch, we are excited to introduce a new resource.

The Grief Garden Path, a book written by local author, bereavement café host and wellbeing coach, Julie New, is now available for our families to purchase and keep. This is available at all of our branch offices.

Courtesy of Claire Austin, Julie recently visited each branch and gifted a copy of the book to each of our Funeral Arrangers.

A qualified Mental Health Responder, Amanda can support you with any mental health questions.

close proximity to families dealing with grief and loss, and who may benefit from the support of trained professionals during their grief journey.

Mind Mid Herts is a local branch of the national mental health charity, Mind, dedicated to providing mental health support and services across Hertfordshire. With a mission to


With experience and an interest in mental Health and wellbeing, Danny can offer practical support.

promote mental well-being and support those experiencing mental health difficulties, Mind Mid Herts has become a cornerstone for mental health services in our community. The charity offers a range of services tailored to meet the diverse needs of people facing mental health challenges. Here are some of the key services they provide:

• Group and Individual Counselling and Psychotherapy

• Support Groups and Peer Mentoring

• Wellbeing Workshops and Courses

• Activity Groups

• Crisis Support

• Advocacy and Information

For more information on the services provided by Mind Mid Herts or to get involved, visit their website at www. or contact them directly. Together, we can foster a healthier, more supportive community.

Employee Discounts on Bright Ex

Have you seen the latest perks available to all Austin’s staff yet? Bright Exchange is an exclusive online marketplace stacked with promos, offers, and deals, and as a BrightHR user, you already have access to loads of savings on products from popular brands. Just head to exchange.brighthr. com log in with your BrightHR email address and password and start exploring the deals today.

As HR Rep, Maggie is here for anyone wanting to talk about their mental wellbeing.

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