New pension freedoms not without risk!

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Chris was at one point a lawyer specialising in pensions and was delighted to write a foreword for Michael Johnson’s excellent report for the Centre for Policy Studies, ‘Auto-protection at 55’, which considers the future of pensions and in particular the need for ‘auto-protection’ to address the dangers of ‘auto-enrolment’.   Chris’s time as a pensions lawyer informs his interest in this major policy area and he was happy to endorse the report’s central theme of how to make annuity liberalisation safe. The report makes many sensible recommendations including a not for profit national annuities auction house to automate the process of shopping around. Chris feels there is clearly value in a default system for pension protection while challenging the market to produce a still better service for clients and this report is an excellent start in that direction.

Full report

Chris speaking on Pension Schemes Bill in the House of Lords

Definitely Able, Doha

Chris speaking at podium in front of audience at Definitely Able Conference, Doha

 

Chris travelled to Doha to take part in the Definitely Able Conference held in the amazing surroundings of the Museum of Islamic Art. Sasol and the British Council, in partnership with Qatar Museums, partnered to organise the conference and accompanying ILHAM art exhibition. The two-day Definitely Able Conference addressed the theme of ‘together enabling inclusion’, which reflects the partners’ belief that through dialogue society can become more inclusive for the benefit of all.  The conference brought together an audience of more than 200 stakeholders in the disabled community, the private and public sectors.

Sasol and the British Council work together to challenge perceptions about disability.

Department for Education Character Awards

Chris standing at podium for DfE Character Awards

Chris was delighted to speak at the awards ceremony for the Department for Education’s Character Awards – a national awards scheme for schools and other organisations to demonstrate their commitment to building character in young people aged 5-16. Applicants were asked to prove that their character building programme developed character traits, attributes and behaviours that underpin success in school and work such as: perseverance, resilience and grit, confidence and optimism, motivation, drive and ambition, neighbourliness and community spirit, tolerance and respect, honesty, integrity and dignity, conscientiousness, curiosity and focus. Congratulations to all the winners.

Winners of Character Awards announced

UKTI Global Sports Projects Conference

UKTI Global Sports Projects Conference Chris Holmes Keynote

Chris delivered the key note opening speech to delegates at 2015 UKTI Global Sports Projects Conference. His combination of insights gathered as an elite athlete over the course of his long and successful career, coupled with the experiences gained in his key LOCOG role as the Director of Paralympic Integration for London2012, ensured he was the perfect key note speaker to open the event. Interwoven with Chris’s unique narrative style, drawn from his first-hand experiences, were key lessons for UK business leaders already involved, or contemplating seeking business opportunities in overseas markets related to Global Sports Projects.  This enabled them to  draw parallels between the client focused delivery of Major Event Organising Committee’s and the commercial focus of their delivery partners and suppliers to ensure a cohesive and coordinated approach, that together deliver the powerful and tangible positive effects experienced as a result of London 2012 and Glasgow 2014’s collective success.  Chris provided the perfect ingredients to motivate, inspire and galvanise the UK business leaders present to ensure that the UK is doing all it can to capitalise on the opportunity to create a lasting business legacy in Global Sport Projects.

 

Update on campaign to get more women and ethnic minorities to play rugby (and cricket and football…..)

Chris knows, from his own personal experience, all about the opportunity that sport can provide for people and its unique power to transform lives and inspire others. The fact is that some groups, particularly women and girls, Asians, Muslims and disabled people, have disproportionately low rates of participation in sport – as players, spectators, volunteers, officials and employees. The Equality and Human Rights Commission receives money from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to promote inclusion in sport. This funding is allocated to grassroots initiatives administered through organisations like Premiership Rugby .  Another partnership with the England & Wales Cricket Board is expected to be announced soon. The funds are also being used to improve access to stadia for disabled people. Discussions have been held with the Premier League and given the windfall the Premier League has just enjoyed, Chris believes “it would be scandalous if clubs don’t do more to improve access for disabled fans.”

Click here for Chris’s blog in full

Listen here to Chris discussing disabled access to football grounds on Radio 5 live

Click here to read a special report on disabled access to Premier League clubs in the Guardian

 

The Digital Opportunity: Make or Break Britain

Today, the Digital Skills Select Committee, of which I have been fortunate enough to be a member for the past year, published its report and recommendations.

The everythingness of the digital opportunity is the fundamental point which we must get across:  training or trade, schooling or skills, education, health or employment, digital will change it all, not in minor, round the edges ways, but fundamentally, irreversibly, often mind blowingly.

To face this opportunity we need the hard and soft infrastructure to enable us as individuals and as a nation to thrive and fulfil our potential.

One of the key infrastructure issues is access to broadband. Currently this is not just flawed by a lack of coverage, particularly in rural areas, there is also a real question of capacity not least in our cities where demand continues to outstrip what service providers can offer.  Broadband must be seen as a utility, be taken as seriously as other utilities and regulated in the same way.

Similarly, in our schools we need to continue our relentless focus on numeracy and literacy but alongside this, as important, we need to set digital skills, digital literacy if you will.  We need the next generation to be numerate and literate but we also need them to be creative, innovative and flexible in this digital landscape.

There is, as ever, a problem with inclusion.  Women, disabled people and older people have a real opportunity but one which is not being realized. One shocking figure is that out of the 4,000 young people studying computer science at A level, fewer than 100 are female, this can’t be allowed to continue. This must be addressed and it is not only about equality and fairness, the report finds that universal digital access could be worth up to £63 billion in additional GDP growth.

Alongside this, apprenticeships, training, careers advice [better termed employment advice or employability] must all stress the digital imperative.

The report calls on the Government to play a leading role, drawing up an ambitious ‘Digital Agenda’ to enable Great Britain to be in the best position to rival the world.  This can’t be overstated and should be led by a Cabinet Minister based in the Cabinet Office.

I have written before about youth unemployment and skills and the importance of overall responsibility for a specific agenda cutting across departments. The success of London 2012 showed what we can achieve when we cut across Whitehall departments and invest responsibility in one person to allow them to achieve a clearly defined goal.

That same level of commitment, pride and passion needs to be sustained if we are to draw up that ‘Digital Agenda’, drive the opportunity and enter an age of innovation, an age of creativity, of production, of leadership, a brilliant bright future for Britain.

Digital Skills Select Committee Report Published

Chris on screen, Sky Digital View

The report, entitled “Make or Break: The UK’s Digital Future”, urges the incoming Government to seize the opportunity to secure the UK’s place as a global digital leader and makes some significant recommendations. Key recommendations are: treating the internet as a utility and prioritising and regulating it in the same way as other essential utilities, making digital literacy a core subject, as important as English and Maths and putting a single “Digital Agenda” at the heart of Government with a Cabinet Minister responsible for it. Chris feels strongly about the need to set more ambitious goals and urges the next Government to adopt the Committee’s recommendations.

Full report

Media reports

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