National Inclusion Week 2023: supporting people with impairments with Ability@SGN

27 Sep 2023
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A man with cerebal palsy in a pale blue shirt and glasses. Logo for National Inclusion Week 2023

It’s National Inclusion Week 2023 and we’re hearing from the chairs of our three colleague networks about how they’re taking action and making an impact for the people we work with.

Today, we’re hearing from Jonathan Bryson, Chair of Ability@SGN.


Understanding disability at SGN 

In July, we carried out a survey to understand what colleagues understood about disability and the results were very enlightening. Nine out of every ten respondents know someone with a disability, 6% thought they didn’t know anyone with a disability, and only 3% were unsure. 

It also showed us that not everyone was aware of the range and variety of disabilities affecting people, including that unseen health conditions such as autism, cancer, mental health conditions, MS and others are under the law afforded the same protections as those who have visible conditions like cerebral palsy. 

After learning this, when asked again, some respondents changed their answer and 98% of people realised they know someone with a disability.

Ability@SGN plans to use these results to shape how the network moves forward and provide additional support to people across the company.


Linking with the experts: joining the Business Disability Forum 

We know we can do better to support our colleagues with health conditions and disabilities. There are some good experiences, but there is room for improvement. 

I was delighted to get the chance to chat with Andrew Quail, Director of IT, who has agreed to be our Exec Sponsor of all things disability. Andrew supported joining the Business Disability Forum (BDF) and we signed up on 1 September. BDF has over 500 member companies and offers a huge knowledge base and access to expert advice (via a helpline) to support colleagues and their managers to offer the best, tailored, support to fit an individual’s needs, depending on how the impairment affects them. 

BDF has a self-assessment tool where members can rate themselves on how ‘Disability Smart’ they are in the areas of:

  • Leadership 
  • Learning and development 
  • Workplace adjustments 
  • Recruitment 
  • Retention 
  • Customers and service users 
  • Procurement 
  • Communication 
  • Built environment 
  • Technology 

At the last Exec Equality, Diversity and Inclusion steering group, they committed to undertaking the self-assessment to give us a baseline against which we can measure progress. More importantly, they have also committed to act on the findings. 

This is a great opportunity to affect some change across the organisation. We will be engaging with senior and middle managers to get their opinions and we will be acting on that in the coming weeks. However, understanding the experience of colleagues with impairments is as important and we’ll be engaging with members of the Ability@SGN network to understand their experience in each of the areas above.


Launch of the Ability@SGN network 

The staff network was launched at the start of September and we have more than 30 staff who have joined our Viva Engage community. We had the first meeting of the group on 21 September, where we shared our interests in joining the network, the challenges we have faced and our aspirations for the network. 

The company already has a number of policies in place to support our colleagues but they’ve acknowledged that there is more to be done. I’m looking forward to working with others in the network, and the wider company, to push for greater change and a worthwhile difference to our people who need additional support.

If we can support existing colleagues better and maybe recruit more people with impairments, then the company will be richer for their different perspectives. We are just starting to work on this and have a huge commitment from the Executive team – I’m very excited at the potential of what we can achieve together.