Police Federation

How neurodiverse is our police force?

NB Member and Diversity Lead Paul Matthews talks about the importance of neurodiverse representation within our police force.

25 May 2023


The majority of us have probably heard the term ‘neurodiversity’ being mentioned a lot at work, but what does it mean?

It is a relatively new term that refers to conditions such as autism, ADHD and other neurodiverse diagnoses. These conditions are not learning disabilities - while it is true they can co-exist with learning disabilities, they can also be mutually exclusive. 

The way people experience and interact with the world varies enormously and these different ways of thinking present opportunities, strengths and challenges to those who may live with one or more neurodiverse conditions.

It might be surprising to learn that nearly three quarters of a million people in the UK live with autism and an estimated three million are thought to live with ADHD yet only 10 per cent of these have a confirmed diagnosis.

By far the most common neurodiverse condition is dyslexia which effects an estimated 10 per cent of the population, that’s nearly seven million people in the UK. Dyslexia primarily affects reading and writing but it can also cause difficulty processing and remembering information. A condition you may not be aware of is dyscalculia- which is a persistent difficulty in understanding numbers and affects around 6 per cent of people in the UK.

Considering the amount of people currently living with neurodiversity and other conditions, it is inevitable that 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, as illustrated above, most people will not even be aware that they have one of these condition.

This may present performance issues and absenteeism which may lead to depressive illnesses and under performance procedures. It is therefore crucial that Police Officers and staff are able to access assessment and diagnosis opportunities so that they might be better supported in the workplace and able to perform to the very best of their ability.

It is disappointing that there is such a wide disparity between forces in the provision of access to assessment in relation to neurodiversity. Some forces are setting the standard by recognising the benefit of prompt assessment to both individuals and the force.  Some provide training and fund internal initial assessments to all new recruits as well as for those currently employed that make such a request.  Some forces go on to fund external assessment and diagnosis so that workplace adjustments can be made to improve performance.

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

It is our view that those forces who do fund external assessments have correctly understood the wider implications for their staff and that any cost is offset by the benefit of prompt assessment and provision of necessary reasonable adjustments that enable our members to deliver their very best.

If your force is one of those that doesn’t support officers by providing or funding quality assessments then they are not only letting individual down, but the whole team down. We should all want every member of the team to have whatever reasonable adjustments they need so they can contribute fully.

We have asked the NPCC to raise this with forces to encourage the currently poor performers to follow the example of the best, if your force isn’t delivering what neurodiverse colleagues need then highlight it with both the force and your local Federation so we can get this sorted for everyone’s benefit.

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