Disability Network - An interview with Executive Director of Workforce Bob Champion | News and events

Disability Network - An interview with Executive Director of Workforce Bob Champion | News and events

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NELFT NHS Foundation Trust provides a range of  community health and mental health services across the north east London Boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Redbridge and Waltham Forest, Essex and Kent and Medway

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Disability Network - An interview with Executive Director of Workforce Bob Champion

To highlight the award-winning work being done by NELFT staff networks, we will be publishing a monthly feature with each of the current staff networks. We are starting with the Disability Network and spoke to the Executive Director of Workforce & Organisational Development Bob Champion to ask him about the Network.  

Why was the Disability Network established?

The Network was established to demonstrate an appropriate balance of equity and inclusivity across the organisation for people with protected characteristics. We were aware that a number of our colleagues have disabilities, or acquire them while working with us and that the success of the well-established Ethnic Minority Network could be transferred to a Network for people with disabilities. We wanted colleagues with disabilities to have a voice and to advise the Trust as to how we could enhance the quality of their working lives, as well as become a more disability friendly and confident organisation for our staff, service users and their carers.

What are the benefits of the Network for staff?

The Network provides an open and safe forum for discussing matters related to disability in the workplace and how it impacts upon colleagues’ ability to go about their duties and responsibilities. The Network meetings allow for the sharing of information, good practice, highlighting issues encountered by both colleagues with disabilities and managers who have difficulty in understanding their specific needs. The Network members invite guest speakers and subject matter experts to demystify many myths and potentially taboos around disability and help the organisation in general to better understand and manage the disability agenda.

When was it launched?

The Network was launched as a spin-off from the Strategic Health and Well Being Group in the summer of 2014.

What have been the achievements so far?

The Network has made a difference to a number of individuals who have attended, or are attending the Calibre Programme, which aims to support colleagues with disabilities to be more confident in their working lives and environments. We have also achieved the first stages towards Disability Confident accreditation, which demonstrates that as an organisation we can understand and respond positively to the needs of people with disabilities. We have also established a cohort of Specialist Disability Advisors and a dedicated email account for enquiries. The advisors can help specifically in relation to reasonable adjustments to job roles or environments, as well as to technological support.

Has the Network encountered any challenges?

Disclosure of disabilities has been a sensitive issue, but colleagues have overcome that gradually. Membership of the Network ebbs and flows, but a core group remains and works together to try and plan events that attract wider participation. As with other networks, there is always the challenge of colleagues being released from normal duties to attend events.

How do you see the Network growing?

Slowly, but surely. The second cohort of the Calibre trainees will help to spread the message as well as the locality based Health and Wellbeing Ambassadors, who will be helpful in signposting colleagues to the Network.

How can staff contact the Network?

There is a generic email address DisabilityNetwork@nelft.nhs.uk that is monitored by the Specialist Disability advisors. 

For information about the NELFT staff networks, visit the page on the official website:
www.nelft.nhs.uk/about-us-staff-networks