A Disability Support Network (DSN) is a voluntary staff support group, usually run independently of the employer by an organisation’s employees. A support network represents the interests of its members – in the case of DSNs, these are employees who are disabled, ill or injured, carers for others, or those with an interest in such matters. In policing, membership of a DSN is open to serving officers, police staff, volunteers and in some cases those who have retired from service.
DSNs may be run by a single volunteer or team, typically a network Chair with an Executive Committee, drawn from all ranks, grades and roles.
As staff networks represent the interests, concerns and opinions of people with a protected characteristic, network leads are usually able to raise concerns and suggested workplace improvements with the Chief Constable and senior officers on behalf of the membership. Some DSNs also offer direct peer-to-peer support or signposting to members to provide support, advice and guidance for a range of matters, including specific health conditions and rights under the Equality Act, such as the application of reasonable adjustments. DSNs are an effective resource for advice and support, and champion organisational and cultural change.
The role of a DSN is not to replace the professional employment advice offered by the Police Federation or police unions, but is supplementary to these services, often working in conjunction to provide advice and guidance from a view point of ‘lived experience’. DSNs don’t provide legal advice – this should be sought in consultation with the Police Federation or your union.