Durham County Council has received government recognition for its inclusive approach in recruiting and retaining staff with a disability or health condition.
Awarded by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), the status of Level 3 Disability Confident Leader acknowledges the council’s commitment towards disabled staff and forward-thinking attitudes.
Following a voluntary application by the council, an assessment was conducted by the validating group, County Durham’s Disability Partnership. The evaluation highlighted valuable procedures put in place for employees and job applicants.
These include a guaranteed interview scheme for all disabled applicants who meet the essential criteria, ensuring lead officers involved in recruitment undergo mandatory equality and diversity training, employee wellbeing programmes such as Better Health at Work Award and awareness campaigns on mental health and specific disabilities such as autism.
Initiatives, including the recent launch of the Reasonable Adjustment Passport, a live record of up to date and appropriate reasonable adjustments agreed between a manager and an employee, also contributed to the successful application.
The council was formally presented with a certificate and badge, with the newly acquired status valid for three years. The presentation was attended by senior managers of the DWP Helen Hopper and Sue Ellingsen, along with Disability Employment Advisor Keith Walton, members of the Disability Partnership which is facilitated by Durham County Council.
Cllr Surtees, Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, said: “The recognition that we have stepped up to being a Disability Confident Leader shows staff, disabled people, our customers and the wider community that we have carried out a validated assessment of how Disability Confident we are and that we have a leadership action plan in place to advance our commitment towards disabled people.
“We will be a champion for Disability Confident within the local business community and we will be encouraging and supporting other businesses in our supply chains and networks to become Disability Confident.
“The launch event marks the start of three years of work to focus on disability employment and reducing the disability employment gap.”
Len Shield, Disability Partnership member, said: “As a representative of the Disability Partnership and Durham Access For All, may I congratulate the council and staff for their dedication in achieving level three to become a Disability Confident Leader. The process has not been easy, but they have risen to the challenge that has been put before them.”
Dr John Clarke, also a member of the Disability Partnership, said: “The achievement of the highest level of this award reflects my experience, in that Durham County Council’s equality and diversity team tries to improve access, and listen to the issues that the Durham City Access Group raise at the Disability Forum.”