Disability-related honours handed to special school heads and service-providers

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The Cabinet Office has defended the diversity of the UK honours system, despite the latest disability-related recipients being dominated by special school teachers and other professionals recognised for providing services to disabled people.

The Queen’s birthday honours list, announced this week, includes MBEs, OBEs and CBEs for at least 10 people for their work in special schools, and at least another 10 for recipients who work for organisations providing services to disabled children.

Another four are recognised for volunteering or service provision in disability sport, and three for providing employment support services to disabled people.

But the list appears to include only two or three disabled people recognised for campaigning around inclusion and disability rights.

The Cabinet Office has pointed to its own figures which show that 6.5 per cent of those recognised in the list consider themselves to be disabled people, while it insists that the process of selection is “transparent and robust”.

Nominations are considered by one of nine expert honours committees, each chaired by a non-civil service chair and with a majority of non-civil service members.

The main honours committee usually takes the collected recommendations for approval to the prime minister, but this year, because of the general election, Theresa May played no part in the process.

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: “The independent honours committees introduced a diversity and inclusion group in 2014 with the objective to increase the diversity of the UK honours system. 

“The recently published Queen’s birthday honours list is the most diverse ever, with 69 (6.5 per cent) of the successful candidates recognised considering themselves to have a disability.

“We need to continue to raise awareness of the honours system in all communities and we welcome more nominations from people who have undertaken outstanding work in their communities either in a voluntary or paid capacity.”

Among those few disabled people recognised in the area of inclusion and rights was John Binns, a trustee of the mental health charity Mind, and a leading advocate of promoting openness about mental health in the workplace.

He is a former partner at the international accountancy and consultancy giant Deloitte and after a period of depression in 2007 he launched a programme within the company to raise awareness of mental health, including setting up a mental health champions network.

Mind’s chief executive, Paul Farmer, said Binns had “used his own experience of depression to inspire others to share and work together to achieve real change in how businesses approach mental health”.

Another disabled person recognised with an MBE was wheelchair curler Angela Malone, who won a bronze medal at the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Games.

British Curling’s performance director Graeme Thompson said the MBE was “recognition of her achievements as a great ambassador for our sport and her contribution in inspiring others to participate in wheelchair curling”.