Papworth Trust - Becoming a Disability Confident employer

Papworth Trust is a disability charity and registered provider of social housing, whose mission is for disabled people to have equality, choice and independence. We provide a range of services including housing, work, care and leisure opportunities. 

Read about our journey to becoming a Disability Confident employer as part of our commitment to support existing employees who may have a disability, and to ensure our recruitment processes are accessible and supportive for disabled applicants. 

What was the issue?

Our vision is to create a world where disabled people are seen for who they are, and this runs through the heart of our organisation – whether it’s through our recruitment practices or supporting colleagues to be the best they can be. We run a number of employment support programmes and through these, we see a lot of apprehension and myths around employing disabled people.

Our aim by becoming a Disability Confident Employer was not only to dispel these myths but also highlight the huge talent pool that exists by having disabled people in your workforce and to be truly representative of the communities we serve as a social housing provider.

Disability Confident compliments the work we do in supporting disabled people, and allows us to continually develop and improve as an organisation by changing behaviour and cultures and reaping the benefits of inclusive recruitment practices.

What did you do?

In 2007, we attained the ‘Two Ticks’ – Positive about disabled people symbol. Although voluntary, being awarded the ‘Two Ticks’ symbol showed we were serious about promoting positive opportunities for disabled people.

The ‘Two Ticks’ disability symbol was awarded by Jobcentre Plus to employers who made commitments to employ, keep and develop the capabilities of disabled staff. Employers who used the disability symbol made five commitments regarding recruitment, training, retention, consultation and disability awareness.

In 2016, the Disability Confident employer scheme was launched by the government and eventually replaced the Two Ticks scheme.   

Disability Confident is creating a movement of change, encouraging employers to think differently about disability and take action to improve how they recruit, retain and develop disabled people. There are three status levels:

  • Disability Confident Committed Employer (Level 1)
  • Disability Confident Employer (Level 2)
  • Disability Confident leader (Level 3)

Papworth Trust applied and successfully enrolled onto the Disability Confident Scheme, entering as a Level 2 Disability Confident Employer. We didn’t want to stop there, we wanted to demonstrate our commitment and help to champion disability employment amongst our networks and wider communities.

In May 2019, we attained the Disability Confident Leader (Level 3 status) and Remploy, the UK's leading disability specialist renewed this in November 2021 for a further three years.

Becoming a Disability Confident Leader has allowed Papworth Trust to advance further in demonstrating our commitment to attracting, recruiting and retaining disabled people. It’s also given us an opportunity to take an active leadership role in encouraging and helping other employers on their journey to becoming Disability Confident.

Who did you engage with?

In preparation to become a Disability Confident Leader we carried out surveys with all our staff, and further in-depth interviews with our managers and members of staff who had informed us they have a disability. We reviewed our internal policies and processes, as well as our external communications which demonstrated our commitment to being an inclusive organisation.

What was the impact?

As mentioned above, our vision is to create a world where disabled people are seen for who they are, and this runs through the heart of our organisation. We are incredibly proud of our workforce, 27% of whom have told us they have a disability. We have set up a disabled colleague’s network to collect feedback and discuss what we are doing well, and what needs further improvement, so we can continually strive to develop and improve the support we give our colleagues.

Externally, we work with our partners and local organisations to raise awareness of Disability Confident and where needed, to help them to attain Level 1, 2 or work towards Leader status. The more employers who are Disability Confident and really driving this agenda, the more employment opportunities will be available for disabled people.

As an incentive, employers who sign-up to the Disability Confident scheme will also have access to specialist information from Disability Confident Leader organisations such as Papworth Trust about specific topics, such as:

  • Workplace adjustments
  • Mental health in the workplace
  • Recruitment and retention, and much more

What barriers, challenges or points of learning did you identify?

We continue to learn all the time. Culture can be one of the biggest barriers along with misinformation and lack of joined up working. Disabled people often tell us that a small adjustment or piece of equipment can make the biggest difference between successfully working or not.

When a person is recruited, we aim to understand their existing needs before they start with us and how best we can support them, however as we know, the vast majority of disabled people acquire their disability during their working lifetime. This means that conversations need to be open, honest and frequent to see if colleagues needs have changed and how we need to continue adapting our support. 

Read a blog from Sarah Miller, Chief Executive of Papworth Trust and find out more info on how housing associations can become a Disability Confident employers.

Who to speak to

Bethan Buck, External Affairs Manager