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Public Appointments Disability Review – Call for Evidence launched

Chris is leading a review into why so few disabled people apply for public appointments and has just launched a call for evidence. Ultimately the review is seeking to make recommendations that are practical and would have a real impact. Please share your experiences with Chris at: holmes.review@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

Further information about accessible versions and survey links below.

Chris has written about public appointments, what they are and why he hopes people will contribute to the review:

What are Public Appointments?

A question I certainly couldn’t have answered until I was appointed to the board of the Disability Rights Commission sixteen years ago. Public appointments have low levels of public recognition and yet they are responsible for the governance of significant slices of our society, from prisons to the police, galleries to gambling, in fact, right across our state.

Although roles vary, public appointees usually provide leadership, strategic direction, independent scrutiny and, in some cases, specialist expertise in important areas of public life. These are positions that provide an essential public service as well as being personally rewarding, developing skills and experience and contributing to shaping the society that we all live in.

But with low levels of public awareness it’s not entirely surprising that levels of participation, not least by disabled people, in these opportunities is, well, somewhat low.

That’s why I’ve been asked by Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden to conduct an independent review into opening up public appointments for disabled people. What are the blockers, the barriers, the bias which may be preventing disabled people applying, getting interviewed, and indeed, getting appointed?

If we are to ensure this review comes up with evidence based clear recommendations which can drive change I need your help.

If you are a disabled person and have thought about applying for a public appointment and decided not to, if you have applied, if you have been interviewed, if you have been appointed, I want to hear your experiences, good and bad and what changes you believe would make a material difference to the entire experience.

This is quite clearly about talent, we need to reimagine that talent, what it looks like, sounds like, where it is located, we need such diverse talent across our public appointments to enable those boards to make the best decisions to benefit Britain.

As is often the case, as it is with public appointments, currently, talent is everywhere, opportunity is not. With your help this review can play a part in addressing that reality that has blighted Britain for too long.

How to get in touch:

Fill out the survey. The survey has BSL links on each page.

Please find an Easy Read booklet telling you about the review here and an Easy Read version of the survey here.

Send an email: holmes.review@cabinetoffice.gov.uk.

Watch the video.

But most of all please get in touch. 

 

The end of the road for shared space

Inclusive Transport Strategy

At the end of last month the Department for Transport published the long awaited  Inclusive Transport Strategy (25th July 2018) setting out plans to make the transport system more inclusive and calling for an end to shared space.

An inclusive transport strategy is so important is because enabling equal access to transport means so much more than getting people on trains and buses. It’s about why people want to get on trains and buses, it’s about ensuring disabled people have equal access to jobs, schools, colleges, the freedom to visit friends and family and use their own high street.

Shared Space

Chris is a passionate advocate for improved accessibility and inclusion and has long campaigned on a design idea known as “shared space”.”Shared space” schemes, where features such as kerbs, road surface markings, designated crossing places and traffic signs are removed, have been introduced in many town centres in recent years. The intention was to create better places the reality, sadly, was a terrifying free for all.

Moratorium and Guidance

In 2015 Chris conducted a survey into peoples experiences of shared space finding them to be overwhelmingly negative. Over a third of people reported actively avoid shared space schemes and 63 per cent of respondents rated their experience as poor. Chris is delighted that two of his recommendations from that report have been adopted by the Department for Transport:

  1. an immediate moratorium on all shared space schemes and
  2. updated Department for Transport guidance to enable local authorities to fully understand their obligations, not least in relation to the Equality Act.

Many people, organizations and individuals, have been involved in raising awareness of the problems with shared space over the years. It has been discussed in parliament, the subject of Select Committee scrutiny in both the Lords and Commons and investigated by industry body the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT).  In the CIHT report Creating Better Streets not one of the case studies examined was found to have successfully created a fully inclusive environment.

End of the road….

One of the most well known “shared space” schemes is in Exhibition Road, London, although the recent introduction of bollards to make one half of the open carriageway completely pedestrianized can only be a tacit acceptance that the scheme as originally designed was not working.

Chris calls on local authorities, engineers and designers to engage with the inclusive transport strategy and take seriously the challenge of considering accessibility requirements in planning and infrastructure.

Chris has said:

“this is nothing to do with seeking to freeze the past or frustrate change, it is about looking forward, being innovative, engaging with technology and the smart cities agenda and ensuring that we produce intelligent, inclusive, public spaces that work for all.”

Chris to head a review into disability and public appointments

It was today (6 June) announced that Chris will lead a review looking at how to encourage more disabled people to apply for public appointments. The review will explore why the proportion of applicants for public appointments who declare a disability is low compared to the UK population as a whole, and how the process could be improved to encourage more applications from disabled people. It is expected that the review will make recommendations and will report later this year.  Chris said:

“I’m delighted that the government is looking seriously at this issue. Public appointments play a fundamental role in shaping society as well as within the organisations themselves. I look forward to working with the government to better understand and improve the recruitment process so that we can address the reality that whilst talent is everywhere, opportunity is not.”

The review is part of the Government’s Diversity Action Plan which also includes an ambition that by 2022, half of all public appointees should be female and 14% should be from ethnic minorities, bringing representation on public boards in line with the wider population of England and Wales.

Minister for Implementation, Oliver Dowden said:

 “I’m thrilled to announce that Lord Holmes will be leading the review. He combines expertise in accessibility, diversity and inclusion, as well as a wealth of personal experience on public boards.”

 

Today’s announcement was made at the Public Chairs’ Forum Diversity, Inclusion and Equality for Boards event, where the Minister spoke to Chairs of Public Bodies about his ambition for diversity in public appointments. It follows a commitment made in the Government’s Diversity Action Plan, launched in December 2017, to commission a review into the barriers facing those with visible and non-visible disabilities when considering public appointments.

 

 Centre for Public Appointments

 The Commissioner for Public Appointments

Lords report asks for ethical AI

Chris has been a member of the House of Lords Select Committee on AI and on Monday (16th April) the final report and recommendations were published: “AI in the UK: ready,AI Select Committee Report launch willing and able?” Following 9 months of expert witness evidence and extensive consideration the report’s conclusions and recommendations emphasize that the UK is in a strong position to be a world leader in AI but that putting ethics at the heart of development and use is the best way to do this. AI, handled carefully, could be a great opportunity for the economy. The report makes 74 specific recommendations but one key recommendation is for a cross-sector ethical code for AI, underpinned by 5 principles:

1. AI should be developed for the common good and benefit of humanity.

2. AI should operate on principles of intelligibility and fairness.

3. AI should not be used to diminish the data rights or privacy of individuals, families or communities.

4. All citizens have the right to be educated to enable them to flourish mentally, emotionally and economically alongside AI.

5. The autonomous power to hurt, destroy, or deceive human beings should never be vested in AI.

Chris welcomes government crackdown on unpaid internships

Chris welcomed news of a crackdown by the government on employers who use unpaid interns. The government has sent over 550 warning letters to employers and has set up enforcement teams to tackle repeat offenders. HMRC will focus particularly on the media, performing arts, law and accountancy.

Business minister Andrew Griffiths said: “Employing unpaid interns as workers to avoid paying the national minimum wage is against the law and exploitative.

“That’s why over the last three months, government enforcement teams have been targeting employers advertising for unpaid interns, reminding them of the law and the consequences of breaking it.”

Last year Chris introduced a private members bill to prohibit unpaid work experience over four weeks. The purpose of the bill is to provide clarity over an area of employment law that is clearly not well understood or enforced.

The government has maintained that current law is sufficient to prevent unpaid internships because anyone who is defined as a “worker” must be paid minimum wage. However, campaign groups have highlighted that despite the law 70,000 internships are offered annually and a significant proportion of them are unpaid demonstrating that current law is clearly not being enforced.

The government themselves recently admitted that there have been no prosecutions related to interns under existing employment legislation and Chris hopes that this initiative will raise awareness among employers and prevent further abuses.

Chris’s private members bill has had it’s second reading in the House of Lords and is awaiting Committee stage following which it will go to the House of Commons for consideration.

The Sun, Interns Blitz

The Guardian, Initiative to crack down on unpaid internships

Chris questions the government about the “potential and pitfalls” of big data

 

 

Today (5th February 2018) in the House of Lords, Chris asked the Government what action they are taking, or plan to take, to ensure that people are aware of their rights and obligations in respect of data protection and privacy.

Writing in Politics Home Chris argues that we must raise awareness and start a public debate to promote a greater understanding of data: the value, use cases, protections, obligations and ethics including asking what a social contract based on data for public good might look like.

“Data is increasingly described as the fuel driving the 4th IR, just like the oil and electricity of previous industrial revolutions, but unlike those earlier examples we, the people, are producing the data. Huge tech giants have users and customers, and as users our data is ‘farmed’ and monetised then sold to customers. Most of us understand and accept this arrangement as beneficial to us and relatively benign, in exchange for information about our shopping habits we receive (sometimes useful) targeted adverts. But the potential of data, particularly as fuel for Artificial Intelligence, extends far beyond these commercial applications. Already, insurance companies the police and other organisations are watching and using our data in ways that are less well known or understood. Just one statistic helps underline the exponential ‘everythingness’ of this; 90% of all data was created in the last two years.

Data is a precious resource. Of course, as with anything, all that glistens is not gold, but there is gold, diamonds and doubloons a plenty if we get this right. Imagine, a health service transformed through insightful, responsible use of data, in law enforcement, big data could become our best detective and if we no longer fancy horse in the lasagne, data has a role. We can transform our public services and be at the forefront of global standards, it’s down to us. Everything and nothing changes. We are experiencing an extraordinary pace of change, all driven by data but we still seek truths, reliability and connection. Thus, we must have conversations about data, who owns it, what rights we have and what obligations. What could a social contract based on data for public good look like?

Progress is being made in terms of legislation governing data; from May this year the GDPR will come into force and the Data Protection Bill is currently making its way through parliament. Many colleagues have done excellent work on the Bill and I am heartened that the government has accepted an amendment to ensure a more robust data regime for children following outstanding cross party working led by Baroness Kidron. Also in the Lords, Baroness Lane-Fox tabled an excellent debate in September calling for improved digital awareness.

It is beholden upon us as legislators to determine how we regulate, how we transact, how we thrive in the Fourth industrial revolution. In doing this we must protect citizen’s rights and responsibilities and most of all ask what society we want to be. I welcome the Governments work to develop a digital charter and establish a centre for data ethics and innovation. These are excellent initiatives but we must keep up the pressure particularly in communicating this work to the general public. We cannot leave it to the tech giants to determine what is best for us; as we saw recently with Zuckerberg’s claim that Facebooks recent changes were made “in order to amplify the good”.

In conclusion, we have everything we need and more to engage in the most marvellous of public debates, like that Baroness Warnock so beautifully achieved with reproductive advances decades ago. We are born human, we have the ethics, we can plot the innovation all rooted in transparency and trust, commerciality and care and an unyielding focus on proportionality and purpose putting data sharing at the heart of a new 21st Century social contract.”

Chris gives annual lecture on ‘Inclusion for Innovation’ at University of Worcester

Chris was delighted to give the University of Worcester’s annual Fellows Lecture this year, on February 1st 2018. In responding to the speech Professor Sarah Greer said that Chris had shown how “one person with a passion can actually change the world.”  The lecture, titled ‘Inclusion for Innovation’,  started with Chris’s personal experiences; highlighting that he understood the meaning of inclusion before he had ever heard the word. Chris’s determination to stay at school and keep swimming after he lost his sight meant that he learned in a fundamental way what was required for him to achieve anything at all. His personal and professional achievements continue to illustrate again and again Chris’s main point that inclusion has nothing to do with doing the right thing but is all about empowering individuals and enabling creativity and innovation.

Chris was welcomed on stage by Lord Faulkner of Worcester who described Chris as a “thoughtful, eloquent, witty and profound” speaker. In November 2016, the University of Worcester awarded Chris an honorary degree in recognition of his outstanding achievements and distinguished contribution to the causes if diversity and inclusion. Given his local connections and the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion Chris was delighted to accept the honour and in this capacity return to the University to give the annual lecture.

 

 

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