Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust is marking the day during our public Board meeting, taking place this afternoon.
28 years ago, the United Nations called for an international day of celebration for people living with disabilities, to be held on 3rd December every year. The day is for all who have a vital role to play in identifying and addressing the discrimination, marginalisation, exclusion and inaccessibility that many people living with disabilities face on a daily basis.
As at June last year, there were 7.7 million people with disabilities in employment in the UK aged between 16-64 years of age. 52.6% of working age people with disabilities were in employment, compared to 81.5% for working age non-disabled people. In relation to the unemployment rate, the percentage for non-disabled people was over twice the percentage for disabled people; 7.3% vs 3.4%.
Professor Ebrahim Adia, Chair at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:
“Whilst International Day of Persons with Disabilities is represented as one day in the calendar, it symbolises the actions we should be taking every day, in order to create diverse and accepting communities and places of work. We are passionate about encouraging our colleagues who are living with disability to come forward so that we can find the right ways to support them to thrive at work.
“We have a range of ongoing projects in place to support these colleagues, including a Supporting Disability in the Workplace policy/agreement, a Living with Disability Ambassador forum, Hidden Disability (Sunflower) pin badges for colleagues who wish to identify a hidden disability and Risk Assessment processes designed to keep colleagues safe to name a few. This is a day to focus on action and to reaffirm our commitment to equality and inclusion.”
International Day of Persons with Disabilities aims to celebrate the community and the roles we play regardless of our abilities; to learn from and understand the experiences of those who are living with disability; to be optimistic by looking forward to a future where people are not characterised by their disabilities but by their abilities.
Nationally, there are relatively few Trusts that can draw on the experiences of Non-Executive Directors with disabilities, but Lancashire Teaching Hospitals is fortunate to have Kate Smyth, who is a board member. Kate, who has a disability, champions the improvement of patient safety and experience, health inequalities, social value and equality, diversity and inclusion within the Trust.
Kate has recently started working with NHS Improvement to increase the number of Non-Executive Directors with disabilities on NHS Boards across the country, with a view to developing a mutual support network and initiatives to encourage people with disabilities to apply for and obtain leadership positions in the NHS.
“It is vital to promote the many skills and lived experiences that people with disabilities can bring to the workplace, and I would urge organisations to ensure they have equal opportunities available regardless of a person’s gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or whether or not they have a disability.”
This year the theme is ‘Not all Disabilities are Visible’, which focuses on spreading awareness and understanding of disabilities that might not be immediately apparent to others; such as mental illness, chronic pain or fatigue, sight or hearing impairments, brain injuries, neurological disorders and learning differences, amongst many others.
Amanda Davis, Head of Blended Learning, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:
“Across the NHS, we measure the work and career experiences of our colleagues with disabilities through the Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES). The introduction of the WDES in 2019 enables us to review our current practices and key areas for improvement in supporting colleagues with disabilities. Representation matters; it’s vital colleagues can see themselves represented in positive ways across our organisation, as this shapes how they view themselves but also how others see them, for example within their teams and also within the wider organisation.”
Other projects available to staff at the Trust include Staff Psychological Support Services, identifying and highlighting issues in respect of access to facilities for colleagues and patients, shielding support packs and the Dyslexia Support Network.