The ombudsman is proud to say that we value the diversity of everyone who works for the service – and everyone who uses it too. So we invited two of our staff to share their experiences with you.
…on making a wheelchair work in the workplace
Most people assume that being in a wheelchair must make a huge difference to your life. I’m a wheelchair user and have been since the age of 16. Odd though it may sound, I don’t think too much about it because I prefer to get on with life. I’ve never thought of myself as different to everyone else. So I went to a mainstream school and had a pretty normal childhood and upbringing.
I’ve worked as an ombudsman for a year and a half now. Before that I spent 15 year as a lawyer after having studied law at Cambridge. I never thought that I would fit in at Cambridge, but after visiting, I changed my mind and I’m glad I did.
It can be difficult when you come across people with unhelpful attitudes particularly when they should know better. My local authority, for example, was difficult about support so I could get out and socialise. They simply couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t just want to sit at home all the time. And more recently I was told I would have to wait over an hour before I went into a major tourist attraction because they only allowed ‘one wheelchair in at a time’! “Health and safety” I was told.
For me, it’s all about people’s attitudes and the same is true in the workplace. If an employer is positive about disabled people, sorting out practical issues will not be a big deal. They’ll focus on what’s important – do you have the right skills and experience for the job? So my advice would be to focus on those that have a good attitude and ignore those that don’t. It can be difficult getting rejected but if that’s down to the employer having a bad attitude I always think it’s worth remembering they’re the ones who will miss out on the talent you have to offer.
My role involves making decisions about disputes. In cases where consumers have been treated badly, I am able to put things right. My role means I can make a difference which I find particularly rewarding. Of course there are cases where the bank has done nothing wrong, and in those cases it is just as important to make that clear. My other role – being a dad to my seven year old son – has its rewards and challenges too.
team manager & chair of the LGBT network.
…on sticking your head above the parapet
Setting up an LGBT network where there wasn’t one before can be pretty daunting. At first we had no idea what we wanted to achieve – all my previous experience of an LGBT network had been the social side when I was at law school. There was no rule book for setting up the same thing in a professional organisation. I really felt that I was breaking new ground.
Well, that was three years and I’m proud to say we now have a multi-faceted LGBT network at the ombudsman with a committee that helps me share the workload. Just recently we took part in London Pride, representing the ombudsman service with fetching t-shirts and banners we designed with the ombudsman. We also recently arranged a huge diversity event for our staff – with external visitors and inspirational speakers, who all came together to learn about the different diversity groups at the ombudsman.
I think there were two keys things that helped our progress. First we spoke to Stonewall who were very helpful and introduced us to other LGBT networks so we could see how they did it. Next, we got support from a senior member of staff to help guide us and drive progress at the highest level. It’s also a good idea to set out your vision and what you want the group to achieve from the start then engage other departments in the organisation to see how you can work together. Don’t forget that the most important thing of all is to have fun too!
I feel like I’ve been very lucky to have benefited from the experience of other people who’ve gone before me. So I’d be happy to share my knowledge with you. We’re looking forward to seeing you at the awards ceremony – feel free to pop over and say hello!
Got a problem?
The ombudsman is the free service that helps you get money-problems sorted. You can get in touch with us at www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk or call 0300 123 9 123.
Powered by Facebook Comments