Derbyshire Police Federation

Postcode lottery for neurodivergent officers, says Fed chair

3 June 2023

Derbyshire Police Federation chair Tony Wetton says there’s “a postcode lottery” across policing in the way forces support neurodivergent officers.

Tony called for set standards to support neurodiversity in the police service to prevent disparities in how forces provided assessments and made adjustments for colleagues.

He said: “There’s a postcode lottery in policing when it comes to assessments of neurodiversity and supporting neurodivergent colleagues.

“There are some forces that understand the benefit to individual officers and to the force of an assessment and supporting an officer through that.

“But there are others that tell officers to fund their own assessments or join an NHS waiting list, and that disparity seems unfair.

“It means those officers who suspect they’re neurodivergent or those who are neurodivergent but aren’t aware won’t get adjustments they need to thrive in work in a timely way.

“The more that officers are able to thrive the more likely we are to be able to provide a good police service to neurodivergent people we come into contact with, which can only be of benefit to forces and to the service.

“This is why there should be set standards so that our members are supported to be the best police officer they can.”

In Derbyshire, there was a Neurodiversity Peer Review last year, carried out by Creased Puddle – specialists in Neurodiversity in the workplace.  They made recommendations which have been built into a plan which is being worked through. 

Tony explained: “My understanding is that things are moving in the right direction, but progress is slow. For example, support for colleagues with dyslexia could be better.  It still takes too long to identify dyslexia, which often presents as a performance issue.  When it is identified, it takes too long to get equipment, training and support in place. 

“Most of us, especially in policing, are at the start of the journey in terms of awareness and understanding of neurodiversity.  We are all neurodiverse – we are not all neurodivergent.  The Neurodiversity Working Group within Derbyshire Police goes from strength to strength and I would recommend that anyone who feels they need support should get in touch with them in the first instance.”

Tony’s comments come as Paul Matthews, Police Federation of England and Wales National Board member and diversity lead, blogged about neurodiverse representation in policing.

Neurodiversity refers to the differences in the ways people’s brain works and can refer to conditions such as ADHD, autism, dyscalculia and dyslexia. It’s estimated that 7 million people in the UK live with dyslexia, 2.6m people live with ADHD, 750,000 people live with autism and that 6 per cent live with dyscalculia.

Paul said: “Considering the amount of people currently living with neurodiversity and other conditions, it is inevitable many will be your colleagues in the police.

“Those with a confirmed diagnosis have access to specific workplace adjustments that should support parity in performance and fosters greater inclusivity. However, most people won’t even be aware they have one of these conditions.

“It’s crucial that police officers and staff are able to access assessment and diagnosis opportunities so they might be better supported in the workplace and able to perform to the very best of their ability.”

Paul said it was “disappointing” there was a disparity between forces in access to assessment.

“Some forces are setting the standard by recognising the benefit of prompt assessment to both individuals and the force,” he said.

“Some provide training and fund internal initial assessments to all new recruits as well as for those currently employed who make such a request.

“Some forces go on to fund external assessment and diagnosis so workplace adjustments can be made to improve performance.

“The Federation believes that all forces should follow this best practice. It’s unacceptable for some forces to be telling our members they must either pay hundreds of pounds for an assessment or wait several years for the NHS.”

Paul said the Federation had asked the National Police Chiefs’ Council to encourage forces to follow examples of best practice.

And he encouraged members in forces that weren’t delivering for neurodivergent colleagues to highlight it with their force and Federation branch.

He added: “We should all want every member of the team to have whatever reasonable adjustments they need so they can contribute fully.”

Understanding neurodiversity.




June 2024