New campaign launched to raise awareness of hidden disabilities at COVID-19 vaccination site

The NHS in Sutton is working with the charity Hidden Disabilities Sunflower to support people with disabilities which are not immediately obvious with the new ‘Our NHS, Your Sunflower’ campaign.

In the UK one in five people have a disability and 80% of these are hidden. Hidden Disabilities Sunflower’s aim is to help make the invisible, visible.

People with autism, chronic pain, dementia, anxiety, visual or hearing problems can experience significant challenges during the COVID-19 vaccination process. However, wearing the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower means that staff will understand someone may need extra time or care.

The local NHS, Council and Sutton Parent Carers Forum are training staff to identify and understand what the Sunflower means and how to support those with a hidden disability. 

Dr Dino Pardhanani, local GP and lead GP in Sutton, said: “GPs in Sutton are really pleased to be working with Hidden Disabilities Sunflower to support the “Our NHS, Your Sunflower” campaign during the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

“This means that the NHS staff and volunteers working at the Nonsuch Mansion vaccination centre will be able to recognise that individuals wearing the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower may need extra time, care, patience or understanding when they attend for their vaccination.

“Over time, we will also work with our colleagues at Sutton Council and our other partners, to raise awareness of the Sunflower scheme.  It is important that people living with a hidden disability receive the additional support and understanding they need when they access health and care services in Sutton.”

Councillor Marian James, Chair of the People Committee said: “I am delighted that Sutton Council is supporting the Hidden Disabilities charity. We will work closely with our partner organisations and frontline staff to make sure we support more of our most vulnerable residents in Sutton effectively through a greater awareness of their needs and an increased understanding of how to provide effective support.

“When people have a disability not obvious to others, speaking with staff or people in public can be a daunting experience. So, by understanding the meaning of the sunflower symbol we can ensure we make this experience easier and smoother for everyone while also making sure we continue to provide inclusive services.”

Jane Knowles, Chair of Sutton Parent Carers Forum (SPCF) said: “This scheme is so important to making the lives of people with hidden disabilities and their families easier to manage. We are pleased to see the Council and the local CCG support this initiative, which SPCF recommended at the Health and Wellbeing Board earlier this year. A large number of the families we support have children and young people with hidden disabilities and we know this discreet symbol is a helpful way for them to receive appropriate support.”

A number of parent carers in Sutton who are supported by SPCF have shared various ways wearing their Sunflower Lanyard has helped them: “In the past travelling through an airport it has helped a lot, particularly going through security where staff recognised my child wouldn’t follow verbal instructions and would need support from me. They directed me to ask my child what to do rather than speak directly to them which would have increased their anxiety.”

“I use mine at the shops to let staff know that my daughter needs to accompany me into a shop and cannot be left on her own. I have never have to explain.”

“Just seeing a sunflower lanyard poster in a window automatically makes me feel less anxious about approaching staff if I need help.”

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