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John will join the charity for up to three days a week for a three-month secondment. He will combine this with his role as Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Chief Executive at North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust which provides mental health and physical health services in Halton, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens, Warrington, Wigan and Greater Manchester.
John has previously worked for the Prince’s Trust, leading mental health charity Making Space and has been involved in the health and social care sector since 2005, with a strong focus on community and mental health service delivery as well as partnership and commercial development.
He will provide strategic direction to RL Cares’s health and wellbeing programmes at a critical time for the sport’s communities as they tackle the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Chris Rostron, the Head of RL Cares, said: “We are thrilled to welcome John to the team and are looking forward to harnessing his wealth of knowledge and expertise to achieve maximum benefit for people at every level of the Rugby League family.
“The secondment of a senior executive board member represents a significant investment from North West Boroughs Healthcare, who are demonstrating a fantastic commitment to improving mental health and wellbeing.
“Working alongside our Head of Community, Emma Goldsmith and all our colleagues, John will review our existing health and wellbeing programmes, develop future initiatives with associated funding streams, and make recommendations as to how we can enhance our offer to our communities.
“We are acutely aware of the impact Covid-19 is having on the mental health of people from all backgrounds across the sport, and are experiencing increased calls our services on a daily basis.
“This situation looks set to continue over the next few years so it is important that we are able to offer support that is both relevant and effective: John will help us to achieve that.”
RL Cares is currently delivering a range of mental wellbeing programmes across the sport, including Offload, which is targeted at men and hosted at six professional clubs, and Ahead of the Game, an ambitious initiative run in partnership with Movember and Rugby League World Cup 2021 and involving 8,000 junior players, their parents and coaches in the community game.
John Heritage said: “I am delighted to have been offered this opportunity. To be a part of supporting Rugby League Cares as the sport looks ahead to Rugby League World Cup 2021 and its legacy is really exciting.
“I’m looking forward to helping them think about some of the big issues affecting the future of both the charity and the communities it supports.
“I hope to further strengthen our partnerships with NHS and social care and will be making recommendations about potential new partnerships and opportunities that will increase integrated and joined up wellbeing and prevention programmes and initiatives for the benefit of our communities.”
John will work with RL Cares for three days each week over the next three months.