Category Archives: Reblog

Celebrating difference and the diverse contribution of people with disabilities

Inspector Tracy Betts is hoping to inspire change nationally in her new role as Interim President of the Disabled Police Association

She’s passionate about making Essex Police and policing in general more diverse and inclusive to reflect the communities we serve. So Inspector Tracy Betts was a perfect fit when the Disabled Policing Association was seeking a new president. And she’s hoping to inspire change nationally.

“I feel privileged that people have trusted me with such an important role. It’s given me the opportunity to influence people for the good of my policing colleagues nationally and to have a positive impact on policing.”

And this Purple Light Up Day – December 3 which is also International Day for Persons with Disabilities – Tracy says it’s all about celebrating difference.

“That’s the biggest message. Particularly cognitive difference, so, the way we think and learn. It’s not just about supporting people with a disability or a difference or a difficulty, it’s about celebrating the diversity they can bring to our Forces.

“People think you have to be registered disabled or you have to have a physical disability but it is anything which impacts on your day-to-day life. And it doesn’t have to be permanent. You may be disabled and not realise you are disabled. So it’s about understanding what disability really means and then being able to help yourself, work colleagues, friends and family to be the best you and they can be.”

And it’s in the area of police recruitment and retention of officers and staff which Tracy feels the Disabled Police Association can play a major part, alongside other national staff associations such as the National LGBT+ Police Network and the National Black Police Association.

“As a police service, we need to be able to move forward and we need to be able to change policing in the light of the way our communities think and rebuild those relationships that have been damaged in the past few years.

“For example, we’ve got a lot of young people coming into Essex Police who are much more open in talking about difference. People may come into the Force with assessments for autism and dyslexia or they are neurodivergent in another way, such as ADHD, OCD or Tourette’s. These are things we are understanding about more all the time.

“And that’s just ‘invisible disability’, the disabilities people don’t see. There are visible disabilities, and sensory impairment as well. But we have people with lived experience throughout the force who are here to help them.

“As a Force, we don’t get it right all the time, but we are committed to being able to change. And that’s the wonderful thing – to be able to change and evolve. This is reflected in the fact that the Essex Police is a Disability Confident Leader organisation.”

The DPA represents disability networks in the 43 police forces of England and Wales. It is consulted at the highest national level – including the Home Office and the National Police Chiefs’ Council – helping to change the way forces recruit, retain and develop their police officers and staff.

And it has been heavily involved in the Police Uplift Programme. This set out to recruit 20,000 police officers between summer 2019 and March 2023 – about 15% of the national workforce.

“The DPA has been pivotal, communicating the lived experiences of police officers and staff to the decision-makers, in a practical way. It’s made a massive amount of change in the past three years and I want that to continue.

“We’ve never had such a good opportunity to change the face of policing nationally.”

Tracy says it’s not just about supporting people with disabilities with reasonable adjustments, it’s about understanding what disability means. And all the national policing staff associations have worked with the College of Policing to ensure recruitment criteria mean we get the most diverse candidates coming forward.

“Record numbers of women, Black, Asian and minority ethnicities and people with disabilities have applied to join police forces over the past year. So it’s been effective. This is so important because we need to represent the communities we serve. If we don’t, they aren’t going to recognise themselves in the police.

Unfortunately, the police service has lost the trust and confidence of some communities and we need to rebuild it.”

A career detective for much of her 27 years in policing, Tracy joined Bedfordshire Police in 1995, transferring to Essex three years later.

Her ‘day job’ is now managing our Professional Assessment Team, helping to ensure every sergeant and inspector who is promoted into the role is supported and assessed during their first year in their new job.

She has also chaired the Essex Police Disability and Carers’ Network. Tracy is diagnosed with dyslexia and has other neurodivergent traits. She also has some physical health conditions, which fit into the definition of disability.

But she doesn’t fit into just one category.

“There are lots of parts of me. I’m not just a female police officer, I’m a female menopausal disabled police officer. I’m a mother and a grandmother and I also follow a faith so I have protected characteristics.

“So when we are looking at our policies and procedures to be able to recruit people, develop them and retain talent, the skills and knowledge we need as a service, we’ve got to make sure that we appeal to every part of them not just one aspect.

“We need to look at the whole.”

For more information on police recruitment and the support offered by the DPA, visit the police recruitment hub at

This article originally appeared on the Essex Police website – it is reproduced here with kind permission of the author

The power of Music Therapy

In this blog produced for the Metropolitan Police Service Disability Staff Association, PC Erin Evans looks at how music can be used to promote recovery from brain and psychological injuries such as traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

What do you think of when you hear the term ‘Music Therapy’? Does just listening to music pop into your head? There is so much more to music therapy than purely listening to music. Let me explain…

Music Therapy is an established psychological clinical intervention which helps people whose lives have been affected by injury, illness or disability through supporting their psychological, emotional, cognitive, physical, communicative and social needs.

The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) has been effective in addressing symptoms of PTSD such as flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, insomnia and difficulty concentrating. The GIM process allows access to the subconscious feelings, images and memories, which provides empowerment and reconnection through self-understanding with the therapist.

Another technique taught by music therapists is ‘Music Breathing’: this is taught by deep breathing to the rhythm of a song of the client’s choosing. Breathing in this way is seen to help relieve stress and anxiety. When the client has a flashback, music breathing teaches them to breathe along to the rhythm of the song, which makes them focus on the breathing rather than the flashback. Breathing exercises can have other benefits such as a reduction in blood pressure. This is a tool to use for receptive music therapy containment.

A study found that there were greater improvements in symptoms of PTSD with music therapy than for people who were receiving cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Avoiding places and people
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability, anger outbursts or aggression
  • Reliving the experience through flashbacks, intrusive memories, or nightmares
  • Overwhelming emotions with the flashbacks, memories, or nightmares

Following a group Music Therapy for PTSD study, it was discovered that the therapy was helping relieve certain symptoms of PTSD. The social element of the group addresses the symptom of avoidance as the participants must be aware of those around them.
Music Therapy helps people with poor concentration as they must engage with their sounds as well as others. Instruments such as drums can be used to help with aggression and irritability: playing the drums loudly is a way of expressing anger, giving the participants a sense of empowerment.

Music therapy has been used to help police officers affected by PTSD in Seoul, South Korea, and the project run there has been very effective. The project was aimed to help manage stress, negativity and to build up the inner strength to cope with the officers’ job more effectively.

Following a research paper on ‘How can music therapy help in the rehabilitation of Police Officers from forces across the South East of England suffering from PTSD’, it was found that in 2016-17 there were 971 officers who took time off work for mental health related illnesses, with an increase of 19.7% in Kent Police, whilst the national average of officers who take time off for mental health reasons being 10.4%. Hampshire Constabulary also said that mental health was the main cause of sickness. Primary research conducted on this paper found that that overall consensus is that Music Therapy is not quite understood, and that needs to be done to improve awareness of the technique.

The research also found that there are a large number of officers who have previously suffered or suffer from a mental health related illness. It also found that being a police officer is an authoritative role, and thus there is potential stigma attached to admitting to having a mental health related illness. The research highlighted that there is a high rate of trauma and PTSD within the police, and currently a lack of psychological support. The majority of officers felt that Music Therapy should be trialled, as many felt that it could be an alternative way of helping with trauma.

Current support is offered through occupational health with services such as CBT. However, unlike CBT, Music Therapy is not a manualised approach – it is client-led, evidenced-based, and qualitative rather than quantitative. Whereas other therapies such as CBT are short-term fixes, Music Therapy is a long-term treatment. ∎

This blog was originally published on the MPS intranet – it is reproduced here with kind permission of the author

Accessible toilets: use or misuse?

by Dave Campbell
Chair | Metropolitan Police Service Disability Staff Association

Accessible toilets: why do we have them and why do we need them?

The provision of accessible toilet facilities is fundamental in the modern workforce as well as being a crucial part of being an inclusive organisation. It is also a legal requirement and is covered under both the Equality Act and Building Regulations.

The Equality Act 2010, states that all organisations have a duty to provide accessible goods and services to their disabled workforce. The provision of accessible toilet facilities is a fundamental and crucial part of inclusive service delivery, therefore their design and management warrant careful attention.

According to the Government’ s data capture body (Office for National Statistics – ONS) approximately 18-23% of the adult UK workforce will have a disability. This equates to about 8,000 people in our organisation that are likely to have some form of disability, in a workforce of 46,000.

Accessible toilets are useful for a broad range of people who are either permanently or temporarily disabled – they provide an important provision for disabled persons to use the facility independently and as safely as possible. The guidance in Building Regulations was a result based on many years of campaigning by disability rights groups and research into the broad church of issues that disabled persons face in the workplace and public areas; and so the design, positioning and exclusivity of use of accessible toilets should be followed exactly as intended, because all of the requirements contained within are essentially important to someone.

What may appear to be a small and insignificant detail to some may pose a real element of difficulty or even danger to a disabled person. On many accessible toilets in the workplace as well as in public areas, we may see signs that look similar to the one presented above, which make us think that its use is confined to wheelchair users only.

Notably 70% of all disability is hidden, which means that it is difficult to assess if a person using the facility really needs to, so there has to be an element of widespread trust, consideration and common sense. If you don’t really need to use the facility of an accessible toilet, then simply put: don’t!

Most significantly, the working age of our organisation is changing and likely to get older in the future due to changes in our pensions, compulsory retirement and retirement age. Many people are working beyond anticipated retirement age. The UK has an ageing population with over 40% of the population aged over 45 years – the age at which the incidence of disability begins to increase significantly. As we live longer and in comparison to previous generations, age brings an increasing chance of disability or impairment.

So what is the difference between an accessible toilet and a regular toilet? Both may be used by differently abled people, but the fundamental differences are in the design and layout, the available space, cubicle layout, the flooring, the hand-grip equipment, the lighting, the alarm system, height of amenities such as wash basin, toilet paper, and so on. The toilet, above all else, removes the disabling barriers and limitations that exist for people with disabilities in regular toilets.

The accessible facility’s wider access doors and bigger room/cubicle area provides adequate space to manoeuvre safely with or without walking aids, wheelchairs or assistance dogs. Toilets seats are raised higher to make it easier to stand up and sit down. By raising the seat of an accessible toilet, transfers to/from a wheelchair are also safer as the seat height is more equal between the two. Wash basins are equally set at a height to aid ease of use. Taps are different so they are operable by people with limited strength or manual dexterity – they should be operable either by automatic sensor or lever action (capable of being operated using a closed fist). The surface finish of sanitary fittings and grab bars generally contrast visually with background wall and floor finishes. Specific heights are specified for placements of full and half-length mirrors, which are useful to persons changing stomas. Such attention to detail also applies to placement on soap dispensers, paper and toilet paper dispenser, and hand dryers.

An accessible toilet is designed to meet the majority of needs of independent wheelchair users and people with mobility impairments, as well as the additional requirements of people with bowel and bladder conditions. It also helps people with impaired dexterity, grip or balance, and other conditions where physical support from grab rails and the presence of an emergency alarm is helpful. It may also be a place where someone can have privacy to change a colostomy bag or stoma, and to self-medicate such as administering injections, e.g. insulin. In terms of health and safety, should someone fall or slip there will be an alarm cord sited within the unit to alert the need for assistance.

In most buildings you will find more regular toilets available than accessible toilets: for example in many buildings there may be female/male or gender neutral toilets on all or several floors, as opposed to generally one accessible toilet in a number of our buildings which are usually situated on the ground floor and on a main exit/entry route. In our larger buildings there are of course a higher number of accessible facilities. Non-disabled colleagues have to a degree a choice of where to go; the choice for disabled persons are more limited.

Where accessible toilets are generally used because of ease of use rather than necessity, facilities can often became unusable or placed out of action due to lack of care in hygiene, lack of consideration (people not leaving the facility in a clean state), carelessness or misuse (blocked toilets). This could mean that no other facility is available for use, or overused so often by the general workforce that a person who needs to use them are unable to due to over-occupancy. This can also mean that these toilets are less safe for someone with mobility issues: they may be unable to change due to fear of slipping, have nowhere to place items to change, or be unable to administer medication or change a stoma dressing.

Lack of availability can be critical for colleagues that need to use facilities because of mobility and dexterity issues, irritable bowel disease, syndromes such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, coeliac disease, fibromyalgia, and many other conditions requiring them to be located near to an accessible toilet.

Believe it or not, I get a number of complaints from our disabled colleagues across the MPS around the misuse of accessible toilets. Some have recounted experiences where due to facilities being out of service or left in an unusable state, staff have soiled themselves as they cannot access them. Often these services are out of use because they require the service of a plumbing specialist, or specialist cleaning due to the mess left. Many people are unable to manoeuvre in a regular toilet and may struggle to get to an accessible facility elsewhere in the building in time. This is not just confined to policing – many say this is a regular occurrence in shops, malls and other public areas where there is an accessible facility.

Furthermore, people often believe it is OK not to report a fault, or to leave an unhealthy mess left that poses a risk. This can impact on whether someone can come to work and stay at work – people have often expressed how degrading this can be. Where locks and a RADAR key locking mechanism are fitted, these have been damaged to gain access, which makes facilities unusable as they become insecure and less private, allowing someone to enter whilst they are in use. Facilities that suffer from these issues are often left out of action for days if the problem is more extensive.

These things do happen! Is it really acceptable in 2022? How would you feel if your loved one retuned from work distressed because of the lack of consideration from their colleagues?

There are no laws that state that non-disabled persons can’t use accessible toilets, and we’ve all been caught short at some point in our lives with the nearest useable toilet being the only option. Because much of disability can be hidden, it is not appropriate to challenge everyone who comes out of the cubicle as to whether they have as a legitimate reason to use the facility. It is important that people understand why accessible toilets exist and act with consideration, maintaining a disabled person’s right to common decency and dignity. ∎

This blog was originally published on the MPS intranet – it is reproduced here with kind permission of the author