Cheshire East Council has announced its accreditation as a Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Scheme employer, showcasing its support for employees, Members and residents who may have a disability or impairment that may not be immediately apparent.
Launched in 2016, the scheme was introduced as ‘a discreet way to make the invisible visible’ and centres around the wearing of a sunflower lanyard, highlighting that the wearer, or someone they are with, may need additional help or support. This could include those with mental health issues, mobility, speech, or visual impairments.
This scheme is widely recognised and has been adopted globally by supermarkets, leisure centres, NHS, police, fire and ambulance services and other large-scale employers. It came to prominence during the Covid-19 pandemic, where the sunflower lanyard was used to signify an individual’s exemption from wearing a face covering.
The inception of this accreditation was driven with the help of the council’s Differently Abled staff network – an internal group of employees who represent those who have disabilities, and work to promote accessibility and inclusion.
This staff network group is just one of many internal groups at the council introduced to help drive their equality diversity and inclusion strategy, in a bid to encourage equal treatment and fair representation for all its staff and customers. This includes their LGBTQ+ Vibrance group, Race Equality group, and the Early Careers Network.
News of this accreditation falls during the beginning of UK Disability History Month, which started on 16 November, raising awareness of those with disabilities and celebrating their achievements.
To mark this occasion Cheshire East Council will be flying the purple disability flag from its corporate offices at the beginning of December, a flag which symbolises the contribution of disabled people in the workforce and wider community.
Councillor Marilyn Houston, Cheshire East Council equality, diversity and inclusion member champion, said: “We are so pleased to have been accredited as a Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Scheme employer, ensuring that we can now become more inclusive, and accommodating, to our employees, Members and customers whose disability may not be apparent physically.
“This is testament to the hard work from many individuals across the council, including our Differently Abled staff network group who work with colleagues to look at the different ways we can promote equality, accessibility and inclusion for all.
“Through this scheme colleagues, customers and visitors will have access to one of these lanyards to borrow on site from our libraries and customer service centres. We hope those with a hidden disability find it reassuring that we are taking inclusivity seriously, and see this as a positive step in making it easier for our customers to access, and understand better, the services we can provide.
“We will be working hard to promote more schemes such as this, and have committed to three modules of internal training for our staff to ensure everyone understands what the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Scheme is, and how it can help make lives easier for those who would previously have not received the additional support required.”