Support for people with hidden disabilities living in North Somerset

Staff will wear sunflower badges.

Staff will wear sunflower badges. - Credit: North Somerset Council

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.

The council has launched the scheme across all its public facing sites including libraries, children’s centres, the Tropicana in Weston, 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. 

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Cllr Mike Bell, the council's deputy leader and champion for disabled people, said: "An estimated one in five people in the UK have a disability, 80 per cent 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.

Alongside North Somerset Council, Clevedon, Nailsea, Portishead and Weston town councils, North Somerset is also championing the sunflower lanyard scheme.

Councillor Judith West said: “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.”

Paul White, CEO, Hidden Disabilities Sunflower, added: "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."