In retrospect it may not be the best idea to use the word ‘chain’ in the title of this blog post, but I wanted something dramatic and catchy, and something that implied connectivity and LDPO branching out and building connections. Of course, Les Misérables teaches us that ‘their chains shall be broken, and all men shall have their reward’ but our chain here is more of positive links, as LDPO today met with Mr. Paul Leahy, a well-connected, enthusiastic and ardent disability advocate who identifies as both disabled and on the LGBT spectrum and works for Leeds City Council.
When I arrived at the meeting, I felt a little bit of apprehension, for I didn’t know what to expect from someone who was ‘on the inside’ so to speak, but I decided to put aside my fears and see what happened. Paul who works in the Human Resources (HR) department of Leeds City Council seemed genuinely interested in the ideas that LDPO is tentatively proposing [though obviously nothing is set in stone at this early stage] and spoke about the potential for some of our members to get involved in Leeds City Council, to tell its managers about the social model and other such ideas.
Unfortunately, I was feeling rather overwhelmed – for reasons totally unconnected to the meeting, so I was not able to memorize everything he said, thankfully the frighteningly talented Hannah McGurk not only asked most of the questions, that we really needed to find answers to, but also took notes, which I now provide here below to give you an indication of what the meeting was like.
Attendees: Paul Leahy, Hannah McGurk, Tom Harris, Peadar O’Dea, Anzir Boodoo
Details: Rose Bowl Café on Monday 30th April 09:00 – 10:30
What’s happening in Leeds City Council
Paul works for Leeds City Council as one of the Human Resources Business Partners; they focus on Inclusion and Development under the Learning and Development branch.
They are working on re-launching staff networks within the council, and taking a proactive approach to making changes
The council has counsellor ‘leads’ for each of the equality groups, with a head for the whole group
This will be changing following the elections on 3rd May, and will take about a month until the new people are in place
Counsellor Alison Lowe is very active, and focuses on inclusion and diversity, particularly around BAME communities. She may be happy to collaborate with LDPO in the future.
The council are working towards becoming a Disability Confident Employer (level 3), which looks at their recruitment but also support for staff.
They are developing a ‘Supporting Staff at Work Policy’ that goes beyond the requirements of the Equality Act
They would perhaps be interested in constructive feedback from LDPO on this.
Access to employment
Discussion of barriers to employment for disabled people; including limitations of full time work with no flexibility of hours
Paul mentioned that the Council and many public sectors now have policies that mean positions are advertised as both part and full-time roles.
More needs to be done on raising awareness amongst recruiters of these policies.
We need to go beyond this; traditional recruitment procedures may not be accessible to everyone (e.g. neurodiversity).
Action: investigate collaborating on a workshop or seminar for disabled people to discuss access to work and employment opportunities.
Some interesting networks we may like to get involved with:
Access Association (£60 per year, but concessions available)
Women’s and Equality Committee (House of Commons)
They published an interim report on disability in Leeds
Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion (national)
Opportunities for collaboration
Starting a wider conversation in the city of Leeds about access needs
The council has an ‘inclusion calendar’ that has various inclusion events/dates; we could see about getting involved in more of these, so that we ensure we are an intersectional organisation.
Action: Paul to see if he can share this with LDPO
Alex Watson is the head of Human Resources looking at transport within the city; working with the combined authority for transport in the region
In the future could perhaps get in touch and see if we could work together
The council provide training and support to third sector organisations (when they contract work with them)
Linked in with local CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development)
Perhaps future opportunities for collaboration here
Local people who could provide training on the social model?
Training currently happens in pockets – i.e. adults, children, frontline staff. Aware this needs to be wider reaching
Focus on Leeds 2023 – Year of Culture
Focus on disability and different intersections of identity
Using different art mediums
~ By Peader O’Dea and Hannah McGurk