Neurodiversity is becoming the popular terminology for dyslexia, development coordination disorder – previously known as dyspraxia, dyscalculia, autism spectrum along with attention deficit & hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Such a diagnosis is covered under the Equalities Act 2010 and can be classified as a disability. Neurodiversity affects at least 1 in 8 people, that’s roughly 15% of the population, but only 50% are aware they have such a condition.
Brett Stringer, who is the Skills for Life manager, gives the following oversight of the Skills for Life (SFL) service from the Ministry of Justice. It coordinates functional skills and lifelong learning. It also supports learners with neurodiversity who undertake their training at any learning venue within HMPPS. SFL has a network of advocates who promote the service and are a point of contact for members of staff within their workplace. It also has partners who provide support for the service.
Brett works to create a supportive culture within the learning environment for those colleagues with, or who potentially have a learning difference. Through partnering with POA Learning, who are the learning arm of the Prison Officers Association, SFL have been able to increase its capacity in reaching out to new recruits. Providing comprehensive online dyslexia screening as one supportive measure, it also offers further strategies and guidance around neurodiverse conditions alongside functional skills training. The service offers support via face to face interaction where possible, online, and by telephone to ensure all colleagues can access advice and guidance. Neurodiversity awareness training is provided to HMPPS trainers on how they can support learners within the classroom environment and also signposting to further support if required. If a new recruit is worried they may potentially have dyslexia, the service offers dyslexia screening for new Prison and Probation Officers along with Operational Support Grades (OSG’s) whilst undertaking their training.
Brett engages with other internal staff networks alongside external agencies to ensure Skills for Life is offering the most up to date advice and guidance. Linking in with the Civil Service Dyslexia & Dyspraxia Network (CSDDN) is one example. He states, “Such a network provides valuable insight to other Civil Service departments and what they are doing to support their staff around neurodiversity. Their network have created a most comprehensive ‘manager’s toolkit’ which explains all the requirements of workplace adjustments. For line managers and colleagues diagnosed with neurodiversity, the toolkit is really helpful. When workplace adjustments are considered applicable, it’s not always about physical equipment such as ‘Assistive Technology’. It can also be about how the line manager can support their member of staff around work strategies and ensuring there are no barriers to their day to day work.”
SFL and staff networks help empower line managers to have one to one conversations regarding neurodiversity with their staff by giving them the tools and confidence to have that positive engagement. The end result should be that the member of staff with a neurodiverse condition is fully supported to undertake their role and progress with their career. We must remember that there can be positives with neurodiversity – thinking outside of the box and being highly creative for instance. These are all strengths held by many colleagues with such a diagnosis. The service provides training to staff and managers in neurodiversity awareness through the SFL & Learning Advocates course. It offers face to face and remote live/webinar training for this package. POA Learning also offer further ADHD awareness training online.
Brett further states, “I am really pleased to be linking in with NAPO. I hope to foster a positive and constructive relationship in supporting new recruits alongside existing staff within the NPS. Through forging such relationships with other networks like the CSDDN we can promote awareness of neurodiversity, not allowing it to be the ‘hidden disability’. This can only be positive for all our colleagues in NPS and the wider HMPPS.” If you would like further information on how Skills for Life could support you or a colleague with neurodiversity or functional skills, please do get in touch through the contacts below.
The Civil Service Dyslexia and Dyspraxia Network (CSDDN) is a cross-government volunteer-led network. Anna Nottrodt, current vice-chair, agrees that strengthening relationships between networks is an important part of improving both awareness and support for neurodiverse conditions. A lot of the CSDDN’s day-to-day work involves signposting colleagues to resources, often within their own departments. For example, we would refer HMPPS colleagues to Brett for his department-specific knowledge, as well as any wider Civil Service support which may be appropriate.
CSDDN also builds relationships across departments and with Civil Service HR in order to share best practice and improve understanding of conditions such as dyslexia and dyspraxia. If you are interested in further information or would like to request a copy of the CSDDN Line Manager’s toolkit, please get in touch via the email address below.