Disabled Teachers' Consultation Conference

The 2022 Disabled Teachers’ Consultation will be a physical event and will be held on Saturday 17 September at the Hilton Metropole, Birmingham.

The Conference will be a hybrid event, so that disabled members who cannot attend in person will be able to dial into the event and interact as if they were in the room.

Highlights from our 2021 Disabled Teachers’ Consultation Conference

The 2021 NASUWT Disabled Teachers’ Consultation Conference took place on Saturday 12 June with more than 140 registered attendees.

This was the first Disabled Teachers’ Conference for two years as the 2020 event was cancelled due to Covid - and it did not disappoint.

The Conference provided a safe space to network, share experiences, gain advice and support, and shape ideas for the future of the Union and the teaching profession.

Disabled teachers from across the UK came together in an act of solidarity and support to discuss a range of issues affecting disabled workers during these unprecedented times.

The Conference heard that disabled people accounted for six in ten Covid-related deaths. With one in four disabled workers choosing not to inform their employer of their disability because of the fear of being treated unfairly, these are very worrying statistics.

Attendees were treated to a wide range of topics pertinent to the lives of disabled members.

The day began with the highly successful and much anticipated workshop ‘Your Disability Equality Rights’, delivered by Nick Cooper from our Legal and Casework Team.

Dr Patrick Roach, addressing the Conference for the first time as the NASUWT General Secretary, thanked attendees for their ‘incredible commitment, loyalty and dedication to the Union’.

The Disabled Teachers’ Consultation Conference 2021 live poll highlighted:

  • 41% of disabled teachers believe the governments of the UK have not done enough to address the specific needs of disabled people during the Covid-19 pandemic;

  • 73% of disabled teachers have experienced difficulty accessing their usual external support since the Covid-19 pandemic;

  • only a third (33%) of disabled teachers believed their employer had done enough to address the specific and increased risks that disabled staff faced from the Covid-19 pandemic;

  • 31% of disabled teachers were able to access the ‘reasonable adjustments’ they needed in the workplace during the Covid-19 pandemic;

  • 30% of disabled teachers do not feel safe or are very worried about their safety in schools and colleges currently;

  • 77% noticed a decline in their mental health and wellbeing over the last 12 months.

NASUWT Long Covid Campaign

The NASUWT launched its campaign to highlight the issue of Long Covid among teachers at the Conference.

Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary, told teachers at the virtual Conference that Long Covid must be legally recognised as a disability under the Equality Act 2010.

Dr Roach called for better support for teachers with the condition, including better access to ill-health pensions and addressing the inadequacy of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) in responding to cases of teachers who are unable to continue teaching because of Long Covid.

Members were also told about the Union’s Covid Infection Register for members who have contracted Covid-19 to record and report details of infection and whether it was work-related.

Members can pass on their details, held in confidence, to help the NASUWT build up a picture of the disease among teachers.

Dr Roach told members, “You have stepped up to the front line of this pandemic and have put your health at risk to educate children and young people. With the serious risk of emerging variants, more teachers could still be vulnerable to developing this condition and find themselves unable to work, at threat of financial hardship and without sufficient legal protections.

“No teacher experiencing Long Covid should be forced to live in fear of being disciplined by their employer or dismissed from their job because they have contracted this debilitating illness. We want to see Government and employers stepping up.”

As part of an exciting panel event entitled ‘The disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on disabled people’, the Conference heard from the Rt Hon. the Lord Blunkett that, “In terms of the impact of Covid, we must keep education at the forefront of the Government’s agenda and assistance in schools and colleges should be tailored to pupils and teachers’ individual needs.”

Lord Blunkett stated that a major challenge of attitude is needed by all and noted that there was a real struggle in the early months of Covid to get people to understand what was necessary to enable disabled teachers to continue working.

He stressed the need for employees and employers to work together, as he believed vulnerabilities could be supported and dealt with if people were prepared to listen.

However, Lord Blunkett also acknowledged that there were some positives about the pandemic as it provided opportunities for disabled people to gain access to improved technology and aided the way in which we communicate and link with each other.

For some people with any form of ‘special’ need, it had been an opportunity to break down barriers.

Vicky Foxcroft MP told attendees that, “Disabled people have struggled financially over the pandemic and that, worryingly, three quarters of disabled students say that their wellbeing has been worse since Covid.

Ms Foxcroft noted that many disabled people have felt like an afterthought during the pandemic, before the pandemic and after the pandemic.

She concluded with the damming observation that 60% of Covid deaths have been disabled people.

Quinn Roache, TUC Policy Officer, discussed a recent TUC report that focused on disabled workers’ experiences during the pandemic and explained that, “Not only have disabled people been disproportionately affected, but pre-existing workplace barriers have been accentuated by the pandemic.”

Mr Roache told the Conference that one in eight disabled people did not tell their employer about their disability because many believed it would lead to negative consequences. He also said that three in ten were in fear of being treated unfairly at work because of their disability. He concluded that, disappointingly, disclosing a disability had led to chances of promotion being affected and increased assessment for disabled workers.

Kamran Mallick, CEO of Disability Rights UK, told attendees that, “The past year has really thrown the inequalities disabled people face into stark relief.”

Mr Mallick stated that disabled people’s civil rights were curtailed, with the failure to engage with disabled people and with inaccessible information and communication throughout the crisis and that this is a continuing trend.

Mr Mallick also shared some damning evidence that seven million of the 14 million people living in poverty are disabled themselves or have a disabled person living in the household. Consequently, food poverty is at a record high.

Disabled people have experienced additional challenges with regard to getting out and about during the pandemic.

Such decisions as cars banned from streets, the removal of street furniture, temporary changes to pavements and the removal of disabled parking bays have all meant that for many disabled people, actually going outside has not been an option, further isolating them.

He ended his address to Conference by urging attendees to join his organisation and help to create a movement for disabled people, to amplify the voice of disabled people, and to bring issues to the attention of those in a position of influence and power.

During the panel session, both Lord Blunkett and Ms Foxcroft offered to raise questions from NASUWT disabled teachers on the floors of the Houses of Parliament.

The questions will include asking the Government if they plan to monitor employers’ behaviour with regard to the application of public sector equality duties in respect of teachers with a disability and asking about adequate funding for reasonable adjustments for members in schools and colleges.

Both politicians agreed to ask the Government to commit to commissioning comprehensive research into employers’ behaviour with regard to providing ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled teachers.

The last question that they agreed to take forward was around Covid-19 and what commitments Ministers will make to ensure that the needs of disabled teachers are addressed as a matter of urgency.

 

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