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SWT highly commended at national awards

22 September 2021 : Council news, Community

Somerset West and Taunton Council has been highly commended at this year’s MJ Achievement Awards in recognition of its work to support neurodiversity in the workplace.

SWT’s People Business Partner team attended the awards ceremony at the London Hilton along with five other nominees for the 'Innovation in Building Diversity and Inclusion' category.

The award was won by Bradford City Council with SWT and the West London Alliance both being highly commended.

The Council project to support staff, customers, councillors and partners with neurodivergent needs was initiated by Cllr Ross Henley, Executive Member for Corporate Resources, with support from Strategic HR Lead, Julie Jordan.

Neurodiversity covers a range of conditions including attention deficit disorders, autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia and Tourette's. It is estimated that more than 15 per cent of people in the UK are neurodivergent, meaning they learn and process information differently.

Cllr Henley who was diagnosed with autism in his late forties and has since become an ambassador for the neurodivergent community, said: “This national recognition validates our efforts to implement change across the organisation through a review of the council’s recruitment processes and by raising awareness through learning and development.

“I’m very proud of the team and what we’ve achieved so far; building a solid foundation to ensure our workplace is more inclusive and attractive to neurodivergent individuals and committing to supporting them throughout their employment.”

SWT invested £15k implementing a new recruitment system, providing assistance for neurodivergent applicants applying for council vacancies and undertaking interviews if shortlisted.

Neurodivergent-oriented packages were also developed for staff, including a communications course using best practice from qualified practitioners; coaching and mental health peer support; apprenticeship schemes and workshops offered in partnership with local education providers and mental health charity MIND; and the appointment of five Mental Health First Aiders and six Wellbeing Champions.

A further £17.5k was invested updating the council's learning management system to include mandatory neurodiversity awareness training for employees and line managers; and provision of a Level 2 qualification in ‘Understanding Autism’ offered in partnership with Bridgwater and Taunton College.