Category Archives: Blog

Risking offence

by Simon Nelson
President | Disabled Police Association

Welcome to my latest one-page blog which I publish, in the hope they will stimulate thoughts and discussion without taking up too much of your busy time. Please feel free to contribute, challenge and share any comments and ideas about the points raised.

On this occasion I would like to share some pragmatic thoughts and observations about our use of language and the impact this has; how we might respond to that; and how we may explore ways in which we can finally achieve something better for all. This is also respecting the many colleagues I have met at all levels who genuinely care about others, even if they are not always effective or consistent in how they demonstrate it.

The low points in my working week often include the latest examples of what has been said to disabled colleagues who remain committed to serving effectively in a variety of roles, despite what they need to manage as their ‘normal’. This week has included further examples of my peer group in other parts of the country referring to those with disabilities as ‘the sick, the lame and the lazy’, as well as an officer being asked by one if they had ‘soiled themselves’ due to the way they walked because of their musculoskeletal condition. This occurs across the country, so please do not immediately think of reasons why it would not happen where you work. I have mentioned previously the 2019 NPCC Diversity and Inclusion Survey, delivered by Durham University and revealing, amongst other things, that 42% of respondents with disabilities had been subjected to ‘incivility’ relating to their condition during the previous 12 months. Currently there is still no tangible plan to address this – the impact on individuals continues and some continue to leave.

I need to be clear that much of what happens would not necessarily amount to formal misconduct, and we should recognise that the challenges and routine exposure to trauma experienced by police officers requires cohesive and familiar police teams to cope with that. Within these there is often humour at the expense of others, but I would never wish to see the loss of good humour and supportive humour I have experienced and enjoyed at its best.

It is worth colleagues considering two things: what they say (the intention may be innocuous), and the impact that may have on the individual. Are they making fun of something that cannot be changed, such as a disability, gender, sexual orientation or other differences – a difference that may have caused challenges and derogatory comments for many years? The recipient smiles or laughs in response, but please understand that there is a pressure to do that and beneath that could be a profound effect on their levels of confidence and sense of belonging. Consider how inconsistent this might be with how we feel about them as a valued member of the team when they ask for backup.

Words are sometimes used within teams the equivalent of which would never be tolerated for other protected groups. In June this year the musical artist Lizzo included the word ‘spaz’ in the lyrics for her song ‘Grrrls’. In fairness to her, she responded positively and removed it when objections were raised about its derogatory association with those who live with cerebral palsy and other conditions that cause involuntary movements – but the fact remains that some of these terms are still tolerated and regarded as normal in society.

I have mentioned to Chief Officers and others the opportunity of having a ‘Rethink your Banter’ programme or similar, perhaps produced by the College of Policing, that supports police forces to facilitate discussions about differences within teams and the impact of issues I mentioned earlier. This would not be ‘training’ – simply time to reflect, speak openly and consider the impact of language and behaviour – a team contract supported by professional and supportive supervisors. Yes, this creates a time demand, however the positive impact on individual wellbeing and performance offers a good return on investment.

Finally, I would like to mention the role and responsibilities of staff associations, including the DPA, and the role we can play in this. Very often senior leaders are wary of having conversations relating to protected differences, due to the perceived risks of ‘getting it wrong’ or causing offence. Some conversations include necessary challenges, but I believe it is essential to support others to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable with what needs to change. In the process of being supportively curious some will get it wrong and how we then respond could encourage or inhibit progress. If we are proportionate in how we react, inform, and give others who are not obviously or routinely offensive permission to get it wrong, we are more likely to achieve the meaningful diversity, equality, and inclusion we seek – through strength in unity and authenticity. ∎

Diabetes Information Update – March 2022

The following guidance from Lancashire Constabulary is recommended by the DPA as best practice for police officers and staff managing diabetes in the workplace

Diabetes and the Equality Act 2010
A person can be considered to be disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on their ability to do normal daily activities.

People with type 1 diabetes on insulin and type 2 diabetes requiring medication should automatically be considered disabled under the Act. A person with type 2 diabetes controlled by diet is not automatically protected by disability discrimination legislation and therefore the effect the disability has on the person, rather than the diagnosis itself should be considered.

Workplace adjustments
Workplace/reasonable adjustments should be considered on an individual basis and might include for example:

  • Allowing time off during working hours for treatment and assessment
  • Allowing more breaks to eat and administer insulin
  • Taking the disability into consideration when monitoring sickness absence
  • Accommodating temporary or permanent adjustments to shift patterns
  • Accommodating officers / police staff who do not meet the medical standards to drive

If you have diabetes, it is important to ensure that you adhere to the dietary requirements of your condition and maintain a healthy lifestyle including regular exercise in order to keep your diabetes well controlled and limit the onset of complications. This in turn will help you to sustain regular attendance at work, and you should report any significant changes in your condition including complications (e.g. eyesight, nerve, kidney or heart problems) to your manager and/or Occupational Health so that appropriate adjustments (even if just temporary) can be put in place to ensure your safety, and the safety of others whilst you are at work.

It is important for anyone with type 1 diabetes that they are supported within the workplace in terms of what can be put into place to support everyone. For this to be able to work for both parties it is important that you are open with how your condition is affecting you, as well as what you need in terms of adjustments, and especially in terms of the legal aspect of insurance.

We need to ensure that all police officers and staff with diabetes who work in high-risk roles have an individual health risk assessment to ensure that all reasonable control measures are in place to help them to maintain optimum control of their condition and to reduce the risk of harm occurring to the officer or staff member, their colleagues, or members of the public.

A risk assessment should be carried out by the manager with the officer or staff member – an Occupational Health nurse adviser or member of the Health & Safety team should assist where required and requested.

If an officer or staff member does not consider their diabetes to be well controlled and stable, or who has had disabling hypoglycaemia in the last 12 months, they should not be asked to carry out high risk activity – this should be covered as part of the risk assessment.

Officers and staff members who have no awareness of symptoms when their blood glucose is low should not be asked to carry out high risk activities, and should refer to Occupational Health for further advice and guidance.

Blood glucose self-monitoring for blue light/response drivers
This must be carried out at the same regularity as required by the DVLA for bus and lorry drivers, i.e.:

  • Regular blood glucose testing – at least twice daily including on days when not driving, and no more than two hours before the start of the first journey and every two hours whilst driving
  • Use one or more glucose meters with memory functions to ensure three months of readings
  • More frequent self-monitoring may be required with any greater risk of hypoglycaemia (e.g. physical activity, altered meal routine)

Where a control measure is not in place or additional control/support measures are identified, list the actions to be taken, by whom and the date for completion as part of the risk assessment.

The individual health risk assessment should be reviewed at least annually or when there has been a significant change in working practice or condition, or any change in medication. ∎

Accessibility features within Microsoft Office 365 and Teams apps

With most police forces within the UK at various stages of introducing Microsoft Office 365 as part of the transition to using Windows 10, and using Microsoft Teams as the ‘go-to’ conferencing tool, it is time to make use of the inbuilt accessibility features

To start the journey we will start with some of the accessibility features available including: live captions, dictation, an Immersive Reader and accessibility checker

Teams captions
Captions can be used in Teams meetings by clicking on the three dots and selecting ‘captions’ from the menu.  It is worth noting that these are displayed on your screen only, rather than being shared by all participants.  Sharing the availability of this feature may assist other colleagues on the call.

You can use your microphone to dictate content into several apps – including Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint – rather than using your keyboard. This feature is constantly being improved and can be used for several languages.

Immersive Reader
Microsoft’s Immersive Reader tool implements proven techniques to improve reading and writing for people, regardless of age or ability. It can help build confidence for emerging readers learning to read at higher levels, and offer text decoding solutions for colleagues with learning differences such as dyslexia. Let’s have a look at what it can offer you and your colleagues:

  • Change font size, text spacing, and background colour
  • Split up words into syllables
  • Highlight verbs, nouns, adjectives and sub-clauses
  • Choose between two fonts optimised to help with reading
  • Read out text aloud and change the speed of reading
  • Translate text into different languages

Accessibility Checker
The Accessibility Checker ensures your Microsoft Office content is easy for people of all abilities to read and edit. Therefore, you can make sure the content you create and share with your colleagues is accessible to everyone and means that you may be able to reach an individual that you may have otherwise missed without using this feature.

These features are free to use and are improving all the time. They have no effect upon security, and most colleagues should be able to use them easily. Whilst not applicable in all cases, these tools may replace additional software which can add additional costs to adjustments. Please try them to see if they are suitable for you. There are several ‘how-to’ videos available via intranet search engines, and we hope to have useful guides available in due course. ∎