The civil service has a problem with the way it treats disabled staff like me

Anonymous (ขนาดไฟล์: 325506)

Managers need to factor a person’s disability into their performance targets. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Disabled Home Office staff face a wait of up to two years to secure reasonable adjustments in the workplace – we’re treated like we are a burden and a headache

I’m not surprised by the way the government treats people with disabilities – you only need to look at how poorly it treats its own disabled staff, like me. There simply isn’t the disability awareness we need from senior management and no concerted effort to address that.

The UN recently produced a damning report that accused the UK government of failing to uphold disabled people’s rights. The official response from Whitehall was to say the UK is a recognised world leader in disability rights and equality. As the old saying goes, if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.

Until recently I worked within the Home Office in a role that put me in direct contact with both senior leadership and the staff on the ground.

In May 2016, while Theresa May was still home secretary, the Business DisabilityForum conducted an internal survey of disabled staff in the department. The results were disheartening, and were never mentioned or officially published; I only got to read them through a contact I had in the human resources department.

The report, Digging Deeper, found disabled staff faced a wait of up to two years to secure reasonable adjustments in the workplace. I have seen colleagues wait 18 months to get the kind of workplace adjustments they need to do their jobs, such as screen readers for visual impairments, height-adjustable desks for wheelchair users, or an ergonomic chair to help with arthritis. In that case, my colleague was told she would have to “make do” while she waited, regardless of the pain she was in by the end of each day. As a volunteer with the Home Office disability network, Able, I fielded a multitude of problems like this.

The department was severely lacking in any kind of managerial awareness training, beyond the most basic, and adjusting regular working hours to better manage to disability was unheard of based on the stories I heard from staff. One of the most common reasons disabled staff end up on disciplinary charges is for going over their sickness allowance, even if the cause of absence is disability-related.

One of my former colleagues with multiple sclerosis, for example, had to prepare a tribunal to stop their manager from penalising them over sick leave. They needed 13 procedures a year, with a four-day recovery time for each, meaning they’d strayed over the strict sickness absence limit.

But the key statistic for me from the survey was that 41% of disabled Home Office staff said they had experienced some form of bullying, harassment and/or discrimination, of whom 36% said managers were the perpetrators.

This is not just a Home Office issue. In 2016 the Institute for Governmentfound that across the civil service there was a discrimination rate of 28% for disabled people compared with 10% for non-disabled people – a figure that high should surely have sparked some reaction.

With the disability network behind me, I asked when the survey would be officially released and acknowledged. The reaction was that “we can’t say anything; it would be very damaging if it got out”.

There is very little emphasis on less visible disabilities. I have pushed for better training for managers around neurodivergence and mental health, which were both also highlighted in the Digging Deeper report.

Managers need to factor a person’s disability into their performance targets. A prime example was the way I saw the communication aspects of my disability completely ignored when it came to team building. For trying to highlight this I have been called “pugnacious”.

As time goes by I wish I could say it has got better, but all I see now is HR shoving everything to do with disability in the direction of the two staff networks, the disability network and the mental health network Break the Stigma. These work as a listening ear for staff to share their bad experiences, but they have no actual power. They have no authority to launch investigations or disciplinary actions and consist of volunteers who can barely give two hours a week.

I now work in a different civil service department, but I still see and hear the same things. The people with the power don’t seem to care. They see people with disabilities as a burden and a headache. That attitude should come back to bite them, but it never does.

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วันที่โพสต์: 17/10/2560 เวลา 10:17:30 ดูภาพสไลด์โชว์ The civil service has a problem with the way it treats disabled staff like me