Bedfordshire Police has been named a Disability Confident Leader by the Department of Work and Pensions. This is in recognition of the force’s efforts to create an equal and inclusive working environment for all its employees.
The Disability Confident Leader status was jointly awarded this month to Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire (BCH) police forces by the government’s Disability Confident employers’ scheme.
The scheme helps organisations to employ and retain people with disabilities and long-term health conditions.
National accreditation is based on three levels and each must be attained before moving on to the next. Disability Confident Leader is the highest level of accreditation that can be achieved.
Acting ACC David Boyle is chair of the three forces’ Disability Confident group where issues are discussed and best practice shared. He said:
“It is a fantastic achievement that the three forces have been recognised as Disability Confident Leaders. Equality, diversity and inclusion are central to everything we do.
“It is in the very fabric of policing and I am proud to work with such passionate colleagues who are doing all they can to ensure people with disabilities and long-term health conditions feel able to pursue a career with the police.
“A significant proportion of working age adults identify as having a disability or long-term health condition. It is vital therefore that these people do not feel disadvantaged.
“We want them to see a career with the police as a natural move and to feel comfortable applying for these roles, knowing ongoing support is in place once they are in post. Their voices are valued and enrich the diversity of our workforce.”
Neurodiversity champions have been introduced across the three forces to promote awareness of, and support for, health conditions such as autism and ADHD.
Dyslexia assessments and follow-up support for all officers and staff were also introduced earlier this year.
Work is also underway to set up a panel to provide support and reassurance to anyone who would like to become a police officer but is worried about declaring their disability.
DCI Marie Gresswell, disability lead for Bedfordshire Police, said:
“We are delighted to have been recognised as a Disability Confident Leader but this is not the end of the journey. We continue to work hard to attract diverse talent from our communities and seek to ensure support is in place at every opportunity for all our officers and staff.
“Having a disability needn’t be a barrier to success. There are many adjustments that can be made in the workplace to support colleagues.
“Our aim is to create an inclusive working environment where everyone, irrespective of their background, feels comfortable being themselves.
“Bedding inclusivity into everything we think and do, will help us recruit and retain the best possible candidates and will help strengthen our relationships with the diverse communities we serve.”
Bedfordshire Police said it has been involved in a range of initiatives that support those living with disabilities and long-term health conditions in the community.
Also, that it is investing in additional disability training for officers so they can identify and react appropriately when a person may appear disorientated or aggressive due to a disability or health condition.
Last year, the Pegasus scheme was introduced in Bedfordshire in association with Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and the East of England Ambulance Service Trust.
The scheme helps those who have an illness or disability that makes it hard for them to speak or be understood in difficult situations.
Members of the scheme who need emergency assistance can simply say “Pegasus” and quote a unique PIN reference in order for call handlers to access their information on a securely held database.
They can also show their Pegasus card to officers.
Officers also have rapid access to British Sign Language interpreters via their mobile phones if they need to communicate with a member of the public who is deaf or hard of hearing.
Following accreditation, which was independently validated by the Business Disability Forum, the three forces will continue to explore opportunities and seek ongoing feedback from colleagues to further promote inclusivity, diversity and equality.
BCH will also mentor other organisations who are seeking to gain Disability Confident accreditation.
Bedfordshire Police is committed to tackling discrimination in all its forms.
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