Support for people with hidden disabilities

1:22pm - 27 September 2021
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Living with a hidden disability presents additional challenges for many people living in North Somerset. A non-visible disability, by its very nature, won't always be obvious to others and this can often mean people aren't treated with compassion and understanding. North Somerset Council is working alongside the four local town councils to change things and raise awareness of the issues using the Sunflower scheme.

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower can be worn by anyone with a hidden disability as a discreet way to indicate to others that they may need additional support, help or a little more time. Since its launch in 2016, it has now been adopted by many supermarkets, railway and coach stations, leisure facilities, the NHS, a number of police, fire and ambulance services, and an increasing number of small and large businesses and organisations.

North Somerset Council is launching the scheme this week across all its public facing sites including libraries, children’s centres, the Tropicana in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset Hall in Portishead, Clevedon and Nailsea. The council staff working in those venues have received training in hidden disabilities and the types of support people wearing the Sunflower might need. People can also pick up a Sunflower lanyard free of charge at these venues if they need one. 

Cllr Mike Bell, the council's deputy leader and champion for disabled people said: "An estimated 1 in 5 people in the UK have a disability, 80% of them having a hidden disability. We're keen to make sure that they can feel welcome and confident using any of our buildings, knowing that they'll be treated with the care and compassion they might need.

"Our staff will wear the Sunflower support pin badges to show customers that they've been trained on hidden disabilities and we'll have other materials in our buildings to show customers that we're supporting the hidden disabilities scheme. We're committed to making sure that people are treated fairly in North Somerset and this is just one of the steps we're taking to deliver on our promises."

"Disability can make daily life more demanding and people are affected in different ways. It can be painful, exhausting, and isolating. Without visible evidence of the disability, it is frequently difficult for others to acknowledge the challenges faced and as a consequence, sympathy and understanding can often be in short supply. We are delighted that the joint commitment by the councils to train customer facing staff to recognise and support Sunflower wearers." Paul White, CEO, Hidden Disabilities Sunflower

Alongside North Somerset Council, Clevedon, Nailsea, Portishead and Weston-super-Mare town councils are all also championing the sunflower lanyard scheme.

“Clevedon Town Council is pleased to work with North Somerset Council to raise awareness of Hidden Disabilities. The office in Clevedon have already received a “Dementia Friendly Award” and is looking to enhance the services we provided to all residents.” Councillor Judith West

“Earlier this year I was delighted when all councillors of North Somerset and Weston-super-Mare town councils supported my call to tackle disability stigma and discrimination. The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower scheme is a really practical way to support both local people and visitors who have a variety of disabilities. It also assists local businesses to benefit from an increase in visitors.” Sarah Codling - North Somerset and Weston-super-Mare Town Councillor.

“Nailsea Town Council is very pleased to be able to join with North Somerset and the other Town Council’s in supporting those within our communities who have a hidden disability. We continue to provide a welcome and inclusive environment at No.65 High Street and the Tithe Barn. Joining the Sunflower Scheme will further support our ambitions for the town” said Councillor Mike Bird, Chair or Nailsea Town Council.

Mike Bell added: "While it's great that us and the town councils are behind this scheme, I'd like to see more local businesses supporting it too. We'll be holding an online information event next month for businesses who want to find out more to help them get started."

The business webinar will take place at 6pm on Wednesday 13 October. Interested business should contact dana.jackson@n-somerset.gov.uk for more information.