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Civil Service

This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

How do we help colleagues with disabilities feel supported?

Philip Rutnam, Perm Secretary for the Department for Transport and Civil Service Disability Champion
Philip Rutnam, Perm Secretary for the Department for Transport and Civil Service Disability Champion

It’s been a whirlwind first six months as the new Civil Service Disability Champion. I’ve learnt a lot and realised that, while we’re making clear strides in some areas, there’s still much more for us to do.

In my first blog as Civil Service Disability Champion I wrote about why diversity and inclusion is so important to me as well as the Civil Service as a whole, and the last six months have only confirmed this.

What I’ve found particularly insightful is hearing stories about disability from people with direct experience of it. Whilst I’ve had some exposure to ill-health in my personal life, listening to people open up and share these very personal stories has shown me just how vast the range of conditions and situations covered by the term “disability” can be. We need to raise awareness and understanding of what it really means to live and work with a disability, and what we can all do to make the Civil Service a place where colleagues with disabilities feel supported.

Supportive staff networks

Over the last six months I’ve met some phenomenal people working on disability. I’ve had the opportunity to address attendees at the launch event for the Positive Action Pathway cohort for AA and AO staff earlier this year and attended the launch of the Ministry of Defence stammering network.

Stammering is something I’ve learnt a lot more about recently, and I was honoured to be at the launch of the Civil Service-wide membership of the British Stammering Association Employer’s Stammering Network during Inclusion Week.

It’s a condition which impacts on every aspect of daily life, and can become a serious communication impairment, causing embarrassment, low self-esteem, social anxiety, and a potentially crippling fear of public speaking. It is believed that about 1% of the adult population stammers – roughly 500,000 adults and over 4,000 civil servants. However, stammering, like many other non-visible conditions, can be overlooked as a disability.

That’s why I’m delighted that the Civil Service has joined the Employers Stammering Network (ESN). Our membership provides civil servants, as both employers and employees, with easy access to information about stammering, including the use of the ESN helpline, and every department will be able to access guidance on best practice and tips on how to talk about stammering.

Diversity & Inclusion Awards

I’ve also had the privilege of working with colleagues to judge the 2015 Civil Service Diversity & Inclusion awards. The awards are coming up on 13 October and I would encourage you to take a look at the shortlisted nominees. There are some very inspiring people and some remarkable initiatives out there.

It is amazing the difference one person, let alone a group of motivated people, can make when they’re determined to change the world around them. It’s exactly this attitude that has contributed to the Civil Service winning the “Inclusive Culture” category at the recent Employer’s Network for Equality & Inclusion (ENEI) awards.

Paul Carswell & Janet Hill from the Civil Service Diversity & Inclusion team collect the Inclusive Culture Award - Public Sector
Paul Carswell & Janet Hill from the Civil Service Diversity & Inclusion team collect the Inclusive Culture Award - Public Sector

World Mental Health Day

Finally, I wanted to bring to your attention World Mental Health day, which takes place on Saturday 10th October. The importance of mental health should not be underestimated; during our lifetime, one in four of us will experience a mental health condition, which means that at some point, someone we know will experience some type of mental ill-health. In the Civil Service we are working to raise awareness of mental health – we have developed mental health awareness learning courses and, as part of the Talent Action Plan Removing Barriers Programme, have committed to introducing mental health first aiders in all business units to ensure support is available to all employees.

The Talent Action Plan Removing Barriers Programme is a key focus for me at the moment, and over the next few months I will be working across government to ensure that key programmes, such as the workplace adjustments service, are fully embedded to ensure we continue along the path to achieving the ambitions we have set out.You’ll be getting another blog update from me on these in a few months’ time!

I am keen to involve as many civil servants in this as possible, so if you have any ideas as to what we might do or try, please let me know. I’d love comments on this blog, but if you don’t want to do that please e-mail me at

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  1. Comment by Andrew posted on

    Well said Francesca. AND all that you ever see are the happy smiley faces, the successes, the positive aspects within HMRC. Why not report the thousands of disabled staff for whom it is a struggle to daily, weekly, monthly and yearly simply stay in their job. There is so much pressure heaped on such a high %age of the disabled staff. There are so many discussions both with you and behind your back both by HMRC Management and ??Health Check Doctors?? Plus issued papers that constantly remind you that ''this may lead to your dismissal'' Success to many is to be there for the start of the next PMR. Where are their improvements? There is little happiness, just relief to be on the same pay they were on 5/6 yrs ago.

  2. Comment by Annemarie posted on

    Some of us are happy to do the job we were recruited to do. Dont need promotion or stretching and dont need disciplininary action starting each time we go above our trigger points because we are off due to our disability. Trigger points are pro-rata for part timers but I am afraid seizures and other disability related problems are not so helpful. The department needs to look again at sickness and disability.

  3. Comment by Francesca posted on

    It is all very well raising awareness of Mental Health and writing blogs about being pro active! It is a complete shame on all departments where staff are made to feel so stressed at work - and all they are faced with is managers telling them " we can't replace the staff that have left, so we've all got to do the extra work (for no extra money), we're all in the same boat, so deal with it" - Not very Inspiring, not very understanding, is it any wonder morale is SO LOW!

    • Replies to Francesca>

      Comment by Marie posted on

      I think all departments should have welfare hub, have mini social workers - , a mixture of volunteers permanent staff who advise, support and feedback to management all worries. Plus can help staff with writing their reports etc. This could also be drop in for people off sicketc. A drop in for cuppa too Plus staff can air views too
      on daily basis if required. Recently I have changed job from telephones to examing job - same grade but feel huge change. Unfortunately earlier this year I got another help problem to add ( 2 x major illnesses on list)
      Tinnitus Hmpo have been brilliant management exemplory I luckily feel well supported. I feel with great management and communication civil service can become excellent. We have to pool all ideas worries together for leaders to sort all statements together. Few months ago I felt
      like huge failure but luckily right leaders! I feel now I want to work really hard on level I on
      but year or two take on more complexed work. + Dont give up if you doing extra work keep a note documented then you feedback to higher grade who will eventually listen. Plus you will
      get more wages for more complexed work. Believe in this! Managers and Higher level cannot
      discriminate.Plus anyone on stages dismissal etc Welfare Hub will check over to check all government guidelines have been followed. Mistakes do get made but quickly evualated. You doing a good job! There's people worse off I've been on same grade for over 15 years but I
      got to do something about it. Cant blame anyone else! Thank you