London Borough of Hillingdon: Being a Disability Confident Leader

The London Borough of Hillingdon council wants to maintain its status as a Disability Confident Leader and continue to make progress in being a more inclusive employer for people with disabilities. Using the Disability Confident framework, they are continuing to develop activities and make changes to a range of employment practices to support cultural and behavioural change in the organisation.

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The challenge

To change misconceptions of managers and staff about the abilities of employees with disabilities, and ensure the advice and processes in place are supporting inclusive employment for people with disabilities.

The solution

The council has introduced target action across in different elements of its employment practices to support more inclusive employment.

Project SEARCH Supported Internship

Since 2020 Hillingdon Council has been a host for a supported internship programme called Project SEARCH. This programme hosts approximately twelve young people with a learning disability or autism each academic year. Interns are based within the council and placed on three ten-week work placements, supported by qualified job coaches. This programme enables young people to develop transferable skills and work experience and supports them on their first steps to employment.

The programme also breaks down misconceptions and demonstrates to our staff the enthusiasm, strengths and abilities of young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

Since the inception of the programme there has been a noticeable change in culture within the local authority and as a result many of the graduates have been employed within departments across the council. For those who have gained employment within the council and who require additional support to maintain that employment, we have an embedded support worker funded via the Access to Work scheme.

Access to Work assistance

An area of concern for managers and staff across the council historically has been difficulties when putting in place Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Access to Work support. As part of working towards improving this, a council officer has been identified as a point of expertise that line managers and staff with disabilities can approach to seek guidance with regards to the scheme. Staff across the council are now in a position where they can seek information and advice in a timely manner about the support available. This aims to enable existing staff with a disability to maintain their employment, support line managers, and enable smoother processes for new starters.

Celebrating diversity throughout the year

Hillingdon Council has recently consulted with all staff across the council with regards to five core values. Three of the values chosen by staff, ‘respect, open and honest’, relate to creating a more inclusive culture within the council. One of the ways we’ve been working towards this is by focusing on marking a variety of national days and weeks with our employees and residents. Recent examples have been articles in staff newsletters and the intranet, including interviews with staff with disabilities on Neurodiversity Week and Deaf Awareness Week. These interviews allow readers to have a greater insight and awareness of the lived experience of colleagues with disabilities.

Supported Employment Forum

Hillingdon Council hosts and chairs a local area supported employment forum that brings together organisations who support individuals with disabilities in gaining employment. This forum has representation from services across the council, DWP, local schools and colleges, and other service providers. A focus of this group is the Disability Confident Scheme and how local businesses can be encouraged to not only become disability confident but also to develop meaningful employability opportunities within their organisations which would lead to paid employment for individuals with disabilities.

Developing our recruitment processes

When recruiting staff, in addition to making reasonable adjustments, the council has amended our recruitment processes to include more flexibility such as:

  • introducing work trials
  • prior viewing of interview question topics
  • an invitation to visit the interview location in advance when requested by those with disabilities.

This is to facilitate a more open approach to interviewing, as the council recognises that traditional recruitment and interviewing will not always highlight the strengths of all candidates. This remains an area of ongoing development and improvement.

How is the new approach being sustained?

The council is committed to being a Disability Confident Leader and support other local employers with adopting the framework.

We are expanding our work on developing more inclusive employment practices. Future areas for development are:

  • further developing our Staff Network for Disability. This is intended to bring together staff, with and without a disability, to share support, discuss and address issues, and facilitate improvements across the council.
  • from autumn 2023, the council aim to roll out the London Councils 'Share not declare' initiative. This is to encourage employees and potential employees to tell us their disability status, enabling the council to have more information to better support individuals.


Stuart Smith

Email: [email protected]