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Civil Service

Disability Champion's winter round-up

Group of civil servants holding up purple balloons and flanking a board with details of the Global Disability Summit Charter for Change
Team members from the Department for International Development's East Kilbride office show off their purple on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Before many of us take our Christmas and New Year break, I would like to look back and give you an update on what has happened in the disability space in recent months.

PurpleSpace Bursary Scheme

As regular blog readers will be aware, investing in disabled talent is one of my priorities as Disability Champion. I am therefore delighted to report that, on 3 December, we launched our second PurpleSpace Bursary Scheme, funded by Equal Approach. It is aimed at talented and aspiring Disability Network Leaders and provides access to a mentor and Purple Space learning resources to develop leadership skills.

This year’s scheme attracted an exceptionally high number of applicants and I extend my congratulations to the successful candidates who secured a place against strong competition.

Happy 18th birthday, Civil Service Disability Network!

This year, the Civil Service Disability Network (CSDN) passed a significant milestone of 18 years since its inception. The network has done sterling work in actively promoting disability inclusion and connecting different disability networks across the Civil Service. Membership in August comprised 88 representatives, covering 46 departments and agencies. It is also represented on my Disability Expert Advisory Panel and Disability Champions Group, to ensure a strong employee voice.

Find out more about the Civil Service Disability Network on their blog page.

Our recent activity

Personal disability stories can be a powerful way of highlighting the talents and skills that disabled colleagues possess and which can sometimes be overlooked.

In September, 10 of my Permanent Secretary, Director General, and Disability Champion colleagues and I participated in a speed-networking event. Six disabled colleagues from different departments, of different grades, shared their insights and experiences. The event concluded with each of us making a personal pledge to undertake a specific action, based on what we had learned. The event was fast-paced and a great way of increasing individual understanding of the challenges faced by disabled staff and of the skills they can bring to an organisation, if allowed to flourish.

In October, I was delighted to give an opening video message to our latest joint Civil Service and KPMG event, focusing on neurodiversity, including autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and ADHD. Participants had the opportunity to hear from neurodivergent colleagues in both organisations about their experiences, and the skills that their different brains afford them. Key speakers included Sarah Newton, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, and Professor Amanda Kirby, University of South Wales, CEO of Do-IT Solutions Ltd. Feedback from those attending has been very positive, with plans to run a further joint event next year on the theme of supporting colleagues with chronic and fluctuating health conditions such as cancer and MS.

In November, I attended the Diverse Leadership Taskforce, which meets to oversee progress on increasing the representation of disability and ethnic diversity within the Senior Civil Service. We had an interesting discussion on inclusive recruitment, improving the Civil Service brand as an inclusive employer, and progress made by my own department (Home Office).

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Monday 3 December was International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It was great to see many departments and agencies marking this by participating in the PurpleLightUp movement, which has gone global following its launch last year.

The Department for International Development celebrated International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Offices around the world flew purple flags, held events and dressed in purple; including  Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Jordan.  DFID also launched a new Disability Inclusion strategy to mainstream disability inclusion across all its work.

Did you or your organisation get involved? If so, please tell us about it, attaching photos, by emailing the Disability Inclusion Team at I will look to publish details of your activities and great pictures in an upcoming blog in the New Year.

The #IAmConfident 5-Day Challenge

During the week of International Day for Persons with Disabilities, the Civil Service Disability Inclusion Team ran a mini internal communications campaign across department and organisation intranets. The campaign was based on 5 small challenges to build your disability confident knowledge, one for each day. Specific challenges included making a commitment to complete the Becoming Disability Confident learning, checking that your diversity data is up to date, reading a Personal Disability Stories blog, and checking on the wellbeing of a colleague by asking how they are feeling.

Please do add a comment to tell me what you learnt over the week. For those who were unable to participate, I have repeated the 5 Day Challenge in the box below. Why not have a go? It’s not too late to complete the challenges.

  1. Complete, or agree a date to complete, the Becoming Disability Confident e-learningIf you have already completed the learning, ask your colleagues or manager if they’ve completed it or share what you learnt with your team!

  2. Read a Personal Disability Stories blog post

  3. Check your diversity data is up to date on your HR system. Are you a line manager? Lead by example: complete your data and encourage your team to check that their data is up to date.

  4. Have a look at the updated Workplace Adjustment Passport, and familiarise yourself with the workplace adjustment process and help available.

  5. Ask someone how they are today or start a conversation about Mental Health.

Bonus: Find out who is a Mental Health First Aider or equivalent in your business area.

Philip Rutnam, left, receiving his Business Disability Forum Disability Smart Award for Senior Disability Champion of the Year on the stage at the awards ceremony
Philip Rutnam receiving the Business Disability Forum's Disability Smart Award for Senior Disability Champion of the Year

I hope that you are able to take some time to relax over the Christmas break, and I wish you all the best for the New Year.

Finally, at the end of November, I was deeply honoured to win the Business Disability Forum’s Disability Smart award for Senior Disability Champion of the Year. The award acknowledges the fantastic work that is being done to improve disability inclusion across the Civil Service by disabled colleagues, disability allies, networks and champions. There is still much more to do and I look forward to continuing our work in 2019.

Sharing and comments

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  1. Comment by Robert Wagener posted on

    Another thing the CS could do for disabled people, I feel, is to publicise their entitlement to exemptions and reliefs better.

    For example, a lot of staff will be moving to regional centres in HMRC over the next few years and become entitled to DTA (Daily Travel Assistance). People with disabilities that have anything more than a trivial impact on their day-to-day working lives (after medication/treatment), are exempt from tax on these payments under Section 246 ITEPA 2003.

    However, the DTA form makes no reference to this and I assume this might be true of the forms used by other governement departments.

  2. Comment by Robert Wagener posted on

    One area that presents a challenge to the Civil Service being fully supportive of people with disabilities are retirement and pension issues.

    A few disabilities have a significant impact on life expectancy, e.g. MS and type 1 diabetes, which means those staff often feel they have to retire early to ensure they have quality time with their families.

    As a result they may well be 'substantially disadvantaged' by those enforced decisions. So perhaps there’s a case for making some reasonable adjustments in those cases to create a more level playing field.

  3. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    Congratulations Philip on the award. I am glad that the fantastic work that you have been doing as the Senior Civil Service Disability Champion has been acknowledged in this manner.

    I would also like to say both Happy Birthday and well done to the Civil Service Disability for their efforts in making the workplace more inclusive.

  4. Comment by Sarah Banks MBE posted on

    A great summary and blog that demonstrates progress is being made but as identified still a lot to do. Can I give my congratulations to Sir Philip for winning the award and for all the hard work he does to make the Civil Service more inclusive as well as many others too numerous to mention. In Ministry Of Defence we had a purple flag relay around various MOD locations and various events. Can I also say Happy 18th birthday to CSDN; and finally congratulations to the new purple space bursary holders it is a privilege to be part of both. It is fantastic to be with such a passionate group of disability allies and advocates. Keep up the amazing work and hope everyone has a good Christmas and New Year.

  5. Comment by Kulsoom Ali posted on

    This was a fascinating read, thank you. Congratulations Philip on winning the award and for pushing this agenda across the Civil Service. In DHSC the building was lit up purple in support of International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Shortly after, we also held a Diversity Day which focused on what inclusion means to individuals. The days events were organised by the employee networks and were well received by those that attended.