Today, to coincide with UN Day of People with Disabilities, my independent review into disability and public appointments will be launched in Westminster. Currently just 3% of public appointees declare a disability. An absolutely shocking figure. That is 180 people out of 6000 public appointments on 500 bodies responsible for £200 billion of public funds across, but not limited to: healthcare, education, the criminal justice system, energy, security and defence. These are significant positions that have an impact on all our lives.
When the Minister for Implementation, Oliver Dowden, invited me to conduct the review he made the point that it is essential that public appointees are truly representative of the society they serve. I completely agree. I believe it is also about talent and this is a core principle underpinning the review. We must access and enable talent in its broadest most brilliant form, not just that of a tiny elite. So much talent is currently sadly wasted, often as a result of inaccessible, non inclusive, non innovative approaches, practices and cultures.
I agreed to lead this independent review to uncover the reasons for this shocking – 3% – statistic. To discover and fully expose the barriers, blockers and bias but, most importantly, to set out ambitious, achievable recommendations to make long-overdue change.
A key recommendation is that the Government set a target of 11.3% of all public appointees to be disabled people. . Other recommendations focus on consistent, comprehensive data collection and transparency alongside a more innovative and flexible approach at all stages of the recruitment process.
Opening up public appointments to disabled talent is not looking to give anyone an unfair advantage. An equitable, inclusive, fully accessible and positive process puts everyone on the same start line. It allows everyone to run whatever race they choose with fairness, dignity and respect throughout. A guaranteed interview is not a leg up, it’s a tool to allow someone with valuable lived experience to get in front of an interview panel. Offering alternative ways to apply is not giving a neuro-diverse person an edge, it may well be the difference which means someone could apply at all.
The review benefitted greatly from the contributions of the nearly two hundred members of the public who responded to our call for evidence as well as Disabled Peoples Organisations, Ministers of State, Civil Servants and Public Appointees. Individual stories and experiences are the most powerful case for change as well as understanding the status quo. As one respondent said “access is not just physical, it’s emotional and attitudinal.”
Although the recommendations are focussed on increasing the number of disabled applicants, interviewees and appointees, I believe that they could have general applicability and benefits in many situations, across public appointments and to all talent acquisition and recruitment practices.
Positive change requires leadership, culture and innovation and I am convinced that substantial, sustainable change is possible. It will not be easy but it is absolutely achievable. Currently, talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not. I hope this review and its recommendations will play some part in addressing this avoidable failing.
Let’s turn this public Dis-appointment into an opportunity to show that we are a country that enables and empowers all our talent, not least, that held by disabled people across the nation.
The Review is available in full and in accessible formats on Gov.UK.
Chris’s private members bill to ban unpaid internships is scheduled for second reading in the House of Commons today (23rd November 2018) Chris is calling on the Government to back his bill to end the scandal of unpaid internships.
Also published today new Sutton Trust research finds confusion around the law on interns.
Over a quarter of graduates (27%) have taken on an unpaid internship, with many having to rely on parents, friends and second jobs to get by.
Pay As You Go surveys graduates and employers to get a detailed view, for the first time, of the types of internships that graduates are completing in their first few years in the job market. The research finds that graduate internships appear to be on the rise, with 46% of 21-23 year olds having done one, compared to 37% of 27-29 year olds. Younger graduates are also more likely to have taken on more than one internship.
In many top professions, internships are seen as a requirement before a first job. But previous research by the Sutton Trust found that unpaid internship now costs a single person living in London a minimum of £1,100 per month. The significant costs associated with unpaid internships are shutting many less advantaged young people out of careers. In prestigious industries such as media and the arts (including fashion, theatre and tv), up to 86% of internships on offer are unpaid.
According to today’s report, middle-class graduates are more likely to have taken on an unpaid internship than those from a working class background (29% vs 23%). They were also more likely to have received money from their parents to fund their internships (29% compared to 20% of working class), and have money saved they could draw on (39% compared to 33%). Working class graduates were more likely to take on extra work to fund themselves (31% compared to 25% of those from a middle class background).
The research finds that both graduates and employers are confused about the current law on unpaid internships. Almost half of graduates (47%) thought unpaid internships were ‘legal in most situations’ or didn’t know, while up to 50% of employers incorrectly thought a range of scenarios where an intern was being paid under the national minimum wage were legal.
While doing an internship is associated with higher salaries, there is some evidence that doing multiple unpaid internships may actually have a negative impact on employment and wages. This suggests that many young people in certain industries are being trapped in cycles of unpaid placements without significant benefits to their career. Many internships offer little in the way of training, and are instead focused on completing necessary work for their employer. 70% of employers say that interns do useful work for their business.
The Trust is backing Lord Holmes’ bill and would like to see all internships longer than one month to be paid at least the national minimum wage of £7.05 for 21-24 year olds, and ideally the Living Wage of £9 per hour (£10.55 in London).
In addition, the report recommends that internship positions should be advertised publicly, rather than being filled informally and recruitment process should be fair, transparent and based on merit.
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: email@example.com
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.
Send an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch the video.
But most of all please get in touch.
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.
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:
- an immediate moratorium on all shared space schemes and
- 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.”
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.
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, 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.